I am sure that all of us know a bunch of awful stuff is happening in Syria, but a lot of us may be ignorant to exactly what is happening. Here is a little breakdown:
Syria is currently going through a massive civil war that began in 2011. Opposition to the government caused a series of protests and violence, prompting President Bashar-al Assad to retaliate against them. This in turn strengthened their efforts and gave more vigor to the hundreds of rebel groups within the state, most notoriously ISIS. Under Obama's presidency, the U.S. made the decision to intervene with the mission to take down ISIS and Assad's regime.
Unfortunately, this tension is not limited to political conflict. Syrian civilians, particularly in areas like Aleppo, are subject to the conflict's devastatingly violent effects. There, chemical warfare, bombs and airstrikes are an obstacle of everyday life.
Fortunately, my friend Suzan, featured in the video above and this post, escaped the conflict in 2012. Now a U.S. citizen, 17-year-old Suzan knows how valuable it is being afforded the opportunity to seek refuge in a land like America. Her story is truly riveting.
Meet Suzan from Syria
How long did you live in Syria?
I was born there and got out in 2012. I am from Aleppo.
How was life in Syria?
It was interesting. My mom left to come here [U.S.] to find a better life while we were there. We were really young at that time. Me and my older sister were left in my dad's care. People in Syria are very judgmental. If you don’t follow their traditions, you get ridiculed. My sister had to put on a hijab even though she didn’t want to. Overall, people there are really nice. They are more friendly over there. Neighbors are closer.
How did you get out of Syria?
There was a tank blocking the way for buses and escape routes, but eventually we were able to get around it and take a bus to Lebanon. The whole road was very frightening because we didn’t know what was going to happen. There were many stops by people from the army and resistance. We were afraid that they would take my dad and hold him hostage. At that time if you were from Idlib, where my dad is from, they would think you were a part of the resistance. We got to the border and waited three hours until we got into Lebanon.
How did it feel to finally reach Lebanon?
I’ll tell you Monique [in tears], when I got there I felt the freedom. I was so happy to be across that border.
What happened next?
My dad had a friend from Lebanon he went to college with. He looked for a place for us before we came there and he took us straight to the apartment. That was the beginning of another struggle.
Since we are Syrians, we are discriminated against in Lebanon. I was not personally discriminated, but my sister and dad struggled to find a job because they are Syrians.
How long did you stay in Lebanon? How did you get out?
We stayed there for two and a half months. After struggling with Air France and the French embassy's discrimination over Syrians (they thought we were just saying we wanted to go to Cuba to become refugees in their country), my dad asked the secretary of the Cuban embassy to help us. Because of her help, and my mom's constant fight to get us out, we were able to leave Lebanon. We then lived in Cuba for a year and two months.
What did your mom do to help get you guys out?
She opened a charity account so that her friends could help her raise money for our tickets.
Let's fast forward a bit. Tell me about the moment you first touched American soil.
Me and my sister were in disbelief. We waited for that moment for 5 years and it finally happened.
How was the process of becoming an American citizen?
For me, it didn’t take a long time to become a citizen when my mom became a citizen, I automatically became one too. When I got my passport of 50 pages I was so happy.
How was the transition for you?
Since I have been raised with two cultures, Syrian and Cuban, I’m more open to other cultures. Once I got in school I adapted to the ways here.
How has America given you opportunity?
America has given me the opportunity to get a good education and be a part of things that I never imagined. I get to go to prom, join organizations/clubs like Spanish Honor Society, Chorus, National Honor Society and Key Club, attend a Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas concert as well as go to theme parks like Disney.
What was your view of America before you came here?
While in Syria, like a lot of people, I thought there was more freedom. I pictured America as a perfect world. But before coming here, I was scared because I heard a lot of stories about hate crimes and racism. Even though I don’t look very Arab, I was scared for my dad.
How have you personally been affected by the recent travel bans?
Since I am already a U.S. citizen, I am not affected by it. My dad and sister have green cards so they are more affected by it. Although I recently heard that the travel ban 2.0 doesn’t affect you if you have a green card.
What do you have to say to people who support the travel ban?
Put yourself in the shoes of those who have waited so long to see their families and were suddenly not allowed to see them. All because of some stupid thought that maybe that’s going to actually make America safer.
Why is diversity beautiful to you?
Diversity is beautiful to me because we can all learn from each others cultures. America would not be great if it didn’t have it’s many cultures.
What is your favorite family tradition?
(answer in comment section)
Thanks for reading! If you, or anyone you know, is an immigrant please let me know. I'd love to showcase as many people as I can. Make sure to SHARE, COMMENT, and SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL (right sidebar) and/or TEXT (txt. @theindie to 81010). New post every Tuesday!