GLASTONBURY, Conn. — When the Arab Spring blew across North Africa and the Middle East in 2011, people all over the world thought true democracy would be born in the region, as the autocratic leaders were overthrown.
Nowhere has the result been more devastating than in Syria. The bombed out buildings across the country and the Syrian people afloat at sea are seared into the public’s memory. Then the survivors faced months of marching north from Greece, frequently met with hostile crowds.
“We were lucky,” Roushan Abdi said, as she told her story sitting in the Mansfield Library on a recent Saturday afternoon.
Her parents and siblings are scattered everywhere.
“My mother and father are in Denmark with two brothers. One sister is in Germany, and four are in Turkey. They are stuck in refugee camps because borders are closing. Even if they managed to get to Greece, it is difficult to reach Germany or Denmark,” Abdi said.
Abdi’s journey out of Syria began when her husband took a job in Morocco.
“We returned to Syria, and my parents advised us to go back to Morocco because we had Moroccan visas,” she said.
By then, the war in Syria had started and she, her husband, Alaeddin Mohamed, and daughter, Hirou, applied for political asylum in the United States and were accepted in 2012.
“We arrived with nothing,” Hirou said.
The family moved several times before settling in Glastonbury.
“I wanted my daughter to go to a good school,” Abdi said
Their experience has not been easy, but her extended family’s journey out of Syria was harrowing.
“We are Kurdish and ISIS does not believe Kurds are true Muslims. They attacked our city, Kobani, and killed our neighbors and friends. ISIS kidnapped my nephew and we have not heard from him. Everything was destroyed. My grandmother made it to Turkey, but died a few days after she arrived,” Abdi recounted.
By those standards, she and her immediate family are lucky. They are safe and have a status that protects them from being deported and are working hard to assimilate into American life. Hirou speaks English without an accent.
Mohamed works long hours to support his family, and Abdi is taking advantage of ESL programs and other studies to improve her opportunities. She has designed a creative and fun way for people to entertain friends, by offering a Middle East Cooking Class in a host’s own home. Each person gets to participate in the cooking, enjoy a meal, and have three more servings to take home.
“I am often in Mansfield doing parties. I know Turkish, Syrian, Moroccan, and Kurdish dishes – and I create my own recipes,” she said.
Like any parent, she worries about her daughter.
“I worry about losing my daughter in a huge community. I am still not sure about the rules and customs. I want to raise her like I would in Syria, but I can’t because she is here. My hope is that she has a good education and finds a good profession,” she said.
This small family misses the larger family, which is now scattered. They miss their lives in Syria before the war. Hope of going back is a dream. A vibrant, ancient, cultured society is now in ruble and ruin. It will take more than a generation to rebuild.
Abdi does what she can to help her family still in Turkey. Her sister has produced beautiful beaded scarves and has sent Abdi hundreds to sell. She has sold enough so that her sister was able to leave the refugee camp and rent a small apartment. …
Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com