Monday, November 23, 2015

The Syrian refugees who've made Michigan home

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 11:04 AM

Monday morning the New York Times posted a poignant snapshot into the life of Syrian refugees Radian Mughrbel,his wife, Sanaa Hammadeh and their two sons. The four fled their home country in 2011 after a slew of killings and kidnappings had interrupted the peaceful, sectarian life they had been leading. 

West Bloomfield, Michigan has been their home for the past four years; however, the wave of Islamaphobia unfurling across the nation in the wake of the Paris Attacks threatens the very comforts Mughrbel and his family have come to enjoy and appreciate in the United States. 

According to the Times the United States has accepted nearly 2,000 Syrian refugees since Oct. 2014 and Michigan has taken in almost 200 (no states other than the considerably larger California and Texas have taken so many refugees). Today there are about 3,000 Syrian-Americans living in the Detroit-Metro area. This has meant Arab-American populations have been able to thrive in Michigan and really build a community. It also means announcements like Gov. Snyder's statement that he'll not be accepting new Syrian refugees is a sign of shifting times and can lead to feelings of being undesired or unwelcome — a pretty horrible feeling to have in your own hometown. 

The NYT uses Mughrbel's family as a vehicle to show how the recent reaction to Muslims in America can have a devastating effect on the men and women who have immigrated to the country and have viewed states like Michigan as a safe haven for many years. 

It details Mughrbel and his family's decision to leave Syria: 

"The government, under President Bashar al-Assad, had cracked down on the rebellious city, religious sects were at war with one another, and the deadly mix of bombings, snipers and random violence forced many residents indoors. Ms. Hammadeh was afraid to leave their home to shop for fresh food. On some days, the family resorted to eating moldy bread.

The couple’s sons, Soubei and Ahmad, now 19 and 18, were then in their early teens, and their parents began to fear they would be kidnapped.
“We got scared,” Ms. Hammadeh said. “The government would see kids on the street and take them, beat them. We didn’t want them to kidnap our children.”"

The family's first thoughts on getting to America: 
On their first morning in their new Michigan apartment, they marveled at the lawns and trees. “We didn’t walk around because we were afraid we would get lost,” Mr. Mughrbel said. “So we just looked out the window.”

“When I saw all the grass,” said Ms. Hammadeh, 43, her large eyes widening, “I felt that I was reborn.”

The community they've developed here: 
Many established Syrians have formed volunteer organizations to assist in the resettlement process; supplied the refugees with furniture, clothing and food; and procured apartments, often at a discounted rent.

“We’re trying to help them find their way once they are here,” said Mahmoud Altattan, 65, the owner of Altas Greenfield Market, an emporium of produce, jarred olives, nuts and pita breads in Southfield, a Detroit suburb. “They have some difficulty adjusting at first. We try to put them on the right path.”

And finally the arrival of a new Syrian family the other night.  It's a fascinating read. Check it out here

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