Thursday, 23 June 2016

Finding refuge: Syrian family settles in Lacombe

The Al Omar family arrived in Lacombe on May 26 from Syria after five years in Lebanon. From left to right: Naeema, Mohamed, Bashar, Ibrahim, Jouliet and Ghazeye Al Omar.(John Hopkins-Hill, Lacombe Globe)

  'Bashar Al Omar was born in Idlib, a province in northwestern Syria, and met his wife, Naeema, while serving his compulsory military service near the Syrian capital of Damascus. He worked in construction, building cement houses, following his service. The couple started a family and began their lives together.

 Everything changed, however, in 2011 during the Arab Spring when protests began in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad. Military troops cracked down on protesters, killing opposition members in hopes of quashing the revolution. The conflict escalated and government-backed forces began bombing campaigns that included not just conventional bombs, but flechette shells, those filled with projectiles designed to maim and kill anyone within the blast radius, and chemical weapons. The majority of those killed by the chemical weapons were nursing babies according to Al Omar. 

 “People were wishing for death,” says Al Omar, through a translator.

 Al Omar knew then that his family had to leave Syria, the only home they knew, and try to find safety somewhere else. He left Syria five years ago with only the clothes on his back, moving to the mountainous northern region of Lebanon.

 Lebanon wasn’t a solution to their problem.

 “We suffered a lot in Lebanon too. The only difference between Syria and Lebanon was the fact there were no people dropping bombs,” says Al Omar.

   Many of the same dangers exist in Lebanon for refugees as they do in Syria. At any time kidnapping and murder are a real possibility. Idlib was a focus of the rebel groups in the opening stages of the war, and as such Al Omar was painted as a rebel, a terrorist, by those in Lebanon and other neighbouring Arab countries simply because of his birth place. Whenever a member of Hezbollah in Lebanon was killed, the blame was placed on the refugees. Tents were burned, regardless of who was inside, and refugees were killed. Additionally, refugees leaving Syria for Jordan and Lebanon slowly died from exposure and ultimately many turned around.

 “We might as well go home and die at home on our own soil,” was the prevailing thought process, Al Omar explains.

 Even now, making phone calls to family and friends is dangerous. The government monitors communications and often planes will begin to fly overhead as conversations continue. It’s typical for two to four flyovers to take place during a one hour call, and often these flyovers lead to the end of the call, as there is a fear the planes may begin bombing.

 After four years in Lebanon, the family had a meeting at the Canadian embassy and were asked the critical question: “Would you like to migrate to Canada?”

 Al Omar credits the Canadian government for opening the doors of the nation to refugees.
“The Syrian refugee is welcomed here warmly and generously. It is a great experience for a Syrian refugee to come to Canada.” '

No comments:

Post a Comment