CORVALLIS, Ore. – Fleeing from violence, a Syrian family dangerously crossed border lines to a familiar city, a city the parents and children all call home: Corvallis.
A Syrian couple, wishing to remain nameless to protect their safety, fled Damascus a few weeks ago. Along with their three children, the family went to Community Outreach in Corvallis, a homeless shelter where families can stay together.
KEZI 9 News spoke with the father, who says his neighborhood in Damascus is destroyed. The family’s house is crumbling from its foundation, in an area where the sight of rubble and death are all too common. For them, there was only one option, and that was to flee.
“I was afraid for my life,” the father said. “There is shilling all the time, random killing of people, all this barricade they have, people are stealing from everybody, and the civilians are the most hurt. The national army was killing their own people.”
What was once a safe neighborhood is now a war zone.
“You’d get shot. People were getting killed just because they were a certain sect.”
The family left their home, staying from place to place underground. With the help of Palestinian friends, the father was able to escape Syria in search of work.
“I had no choice. Either stay there and see my kids get shot. About 40 percent – 40 percent plus of my friends are not there anymore.”
He went to Saudi Arabia seeking work for one reason.
“To collect money to buy the tickets to come back home,” he said.
After working for a period of time as a teacher, the refugee went back for his family. They immediately fled. From Syria, they went to Jordan, to Korea, to Seattle, to Portland, and eventually to Corvallis.
The father is a graduate of Oregon State University, and he and his children have dual Syrian and American citizenship.
His children were born in Oregon, but the family moved back to Syria so the they could see their roots and have a more international education. The father says he loved living in Corvallis. Before arriving to the United States, he e-mailed Community Outreach to see if the family could stay there.
“What a nice, refreshing remark she (Executive Director Kari Whitacre of Community Outreach) gave me. She said: ‘You just get over here and we’ll help you. Even if you come late at night, we’ll have someone to open the door for you.’ Right there I said, ‘I’m coming back home!’”
He says once he gets a loan, he wants to start a micro-finance business in Corvallis to help those in need start their own businesses. He also has the desire to open a Mediterranean restaurant in town, and to continue his work as an industrial engineer.
However, the question remains: what part, if any, should the United States play in Syria? The father says he disapproves of the US invading, but he thinks the country should help Syria in other ways, such as by supplying civilians with weapons.
“Not to lose our American soldiers. But at least to assist those people to help themselves. Not to be stuck and blown up with a chemical weapon. That’s not fair,” he said. “That’s not fair.”