Monday, 8 August 2016

Syrian refugees settling in US at a faster clip

Syrian refugees settling in US at a faster clip

 'When Ajwad Al Zoubi, a tall, stocky man who for years drove trucks across the Middle East, saw the emailed photo of his beloved home with the bountiful orange trees burned to the ground, he turned into a pool of tears. They come suddenly, even now, when he talks about it.

 Before the war he couldn't have fathomed leaving his hometown in Syria. It was here where he built up two stores and designed his dream house for his mother, wife and nine children. Then government forces came searching for him in a wider strategy to detain all adult men. Dara'a, the forefront of Syria's protest against President Bashar al-Assad, was becoming a graveyard.

 For Al Zoubi, the nation's opposition to Syrian refugees doesn't fit with people like him who have lost everything.
 "We came here from Syria to escape (such extremism,)" he said of safety concerns regarding refugees. "That's not us. We ran away from what they are describing."
 The 42-year-old still remembers the March 2011 protests that sparked the war clearly, catapulting Dara'a into the "cradle of the revolution." Following the success of protests in Tunisia, 15 teenage boys in Dara'a spray painted anti-government graffiti on a school wall. They were arrested and tortured, suffering beatings, electric shocks and having their fingernails ripped off.
 The city of about 150,000 people roughly 8 miles north of the Jordanian border erupted in widespread protest. Al Zoubi attended some of them. Security forces cracked down, killing hundreds of people over the next month, including the nephew of Al Zoubi's wife.
 Life in Dara'a turned increasingly complicated. To punish the city's residents, the government cut electricity and blocked telephone and Internet service. Water and bread became luxury items.
 "The government started destroying the city," Al Zoubi said.
 For a time, the family tried to stick out the violence, huddling together at home. But with roads into the city blocked, Al Zoubi could no longer buy the items he sold in his stores and he resumed driving trucks.
 During one such trip away, security forces raided his house, threatening his 63-year-old mother and violently pushing the diabetic to the floor with the butt of a rifle. They were searching for Al Zoubi. According to Human Rights Watch, which investigated the attacks in the city, security forces detained hundreds of adults and children in such random sweeps.
 Fearing that he would be taken into custody too, Al Zoubi went to Jordan, where he thought he could work while the conflict tided over. But it only worsened. His children saw bombs erupt as they played outside and he said security forces drove through their neighborhood, shooting at random.
 On May 28, 2012, his family piled into a taxi with just enough clothes to convince border guards that they were only visiting Al Zoubi in Jordan for the weekend. They never came back. After a friend later emailed him a picture of the charred remains of his house, it sunk in- finally - that he could never go home again.

 His wife, Taghred Ahmad, has scouted all of Houston's Arabic markets, discovering to her delight that she can find most of the traditional delicacies they were accustomed to at home. One of the kids, 17-year-old Mohammad, used to wake up terrified in the middle of the night, shaking from nightmares of the shelling of bombs. Now he is slowly learning to sleep through peacefully.'

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