Sunday, 27 March 2016

Syrian recounts flight from civil war, struggle for acceptance

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 'Syrian refugee Lawrence Powell was born in the wrong place at the wrong time, a secret "criminal" whose family disowned him as civil war erupted in his homeland. 

 "No one in my family or friends knew I was gay," he recalled Friday evening. "It's a crime in Syria. It's a scandal socially." 

 Then came the Arab Spring of 2011, which led to rulers being ousted from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In Syria, though, rebels pushing for freedom of speech, jobs and education were killed by President Bashar al-Assad's regime. 

 "Blood brings blood," Lawrence said. "When people are being killed, they seek revenge. It was a real revolution. Then the revolution was stolen. ISIS came, Hezbollah came, the Free Syrian Army came. Unfortunately, this revolution by good people was stolen."

 When Lawrence refused to be seduced by a high-ranking government official, he was jailed for three months.

 "After jail, my family knew. To be outed by police - this is a scandal. And I am the oldest son, so I am like a role model for the family. So I was disowned."

 That's a bit of an understatement. His brothers pummeled him brutally, and Lawrence's sisters helped him escape through a window while the brothers took a break. George helped Lawrence move to Lebanon in 2013 while trying to obtain either U.S. or Canadian tourist visas. Neither country cooperated. But finally, after medical exams, background checks and repeated interviews, the treasured U.S. visa came through. The couple flew to Houston and visited George's family members en route to Colorado. They loved Lawrence, too.

 "They all showed me all the love," Lawrence said, beaming. "Even George's mother, who is 94 years old and very conservative. But after a day, she loved me so much.

 Personally, I have a good life, and everyone is welcoming me. But I want to tell the people that Middle Easterners aren't terrorists. We have the same fears you do. We just escaped from the war. We want to be productive, we want to work." '

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