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’It’s Like I’ve Been Born Again’: The Young Syrians Making a New Life in Mexico

Nina Lakhani - The Guardian
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July 14, 2017

Syrian refugees in Mexico Silva Hassan Namo, 22, Amer Bahra, 24, and Ahmed Aldabak, 23 waiting for their turn at immigration in Aguascalientes (Nina Lakhani)

When they still lived back home in Derik, northern Syria, Silva Hassan Namo and her family would gather each evening around the television to watch the latest episodes of their favorite Mexican telenovelas.

Even after civil war forced them to flee to Iraq, the family would follow the soap operas whenever they could, to escape the grim monotony of life in a refugee camp.

So when Hassan was granted a scholarship to study in Mexico, her family was uneasy about her moving to a country they’d only ever known as the setting for melodramatic tales of revenge, family feuds and mafia bosses.

“My dad’s dream was always for his children to study and become something. But he was scared about me coming to Mexico because he thought it was a country of criminals and marijuana – that’s what we would see in the TV series and the news,” she said.

Hassan is one of 10 young Syrians in Mexico thanks to Project Habesha – a small not-for-profit organization arranging university scholarships for youngsters whose education has been disrupted by the civil war.

Almost half a million Syrians have been killed, with another 11 million forcibly displaced. Only a handful of refugees – 31 since 2014 according to immigration figures – have reached Mexico independently, but that is likely to change thanks to Project Habesha.

Hassan, the second female student to be picked so far, arrived in March with her husband Jack Mohammed, 24. Neither of them spoke a word of Spanish, but she describes the experience as a rebirth.

“Imagine you’re dead and someone gives you a miracle cure. That’s what coming to Mexico feels like, like I’ve been born again,” said Hassan.

Read the rest at The Guardian

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