Then something happened, not in Canada but back home: a civil uprising for freedom and dignity in Syria. Like thousands of young activists across Syria, I published posts online expressing my support for the revolution.
Almost immediately, the threats came in. Many people from Latakia, my city, were directly related to the regime and became vehement regime supporters. The revolution was turning old friends into enemies.
One day I got a call and the voice on the other end said, “Don’t dare come back to Syria.” The threats escalated after I published a note on Facebook to build awareness about the oppression of the Assad regime.
In 2012, Immigration Canada rejected my application for permanent residency: I had come up two points short in its system. Voicing my opinions about the revolution robbed me of the option to return home. But Canada didn’t want me, either.
I never wanted to tell the people I met that I was a refugee. I didn’t want to say out loud that this country had not yet accepted me. I tried to justify hiding the truth about my status. I told myself if people know I’m a refugee, they may respond to me with sympathy. A refugee is a creature that needs help. Or they may respond to me with fear or hatred. A refugee is a security threat or an economic liability.
I should not have had to try so hard to prove my worth. Refugees should not have to give up so much in an attempt to be accepted. Society may proliferate the stigma of being a refugee, and allow all the ugly stereotypes to flourish. But I’m at fault for fearing the label and am working hard to prove it wrong.
I have done what I can to love this country, but I am no longer willing to neglect the other parts of my life that also deserve my love. And with equal conviction, I am no longer willing to hide from the truth. My name is Mustafa Alio, I am a refugee and I am proud.'