A Syrian Refugee Couple Tells Their Story

A Syrian Refugee Couple Tells Their Story

Nazim and Waad are Syrian refugees who have come to Italy through Humanitarian Corridors, the program developed by Italian Christians to facilitate the safe and legal entry into Italy of refugees fleeing situations so terrible that, were it not for Humanitarian Corridors, they might risk coming to Europe by sea. This is Nazim’s and Waad’s story, as originally shared by the American Waldensian Society.

Question: Why did you leave Syria three years ago?
Answer: Five years ago we were living in a neighborhood in Homs. Then, as the civil war in our country was heating up, it became a very difficult place to live. My parents and I decided to move outside the city. We thought we would live there for about three months and that by then everything would return to normal and we could return. We left Syria three years ago because the regime wanted me to join the army. Military service is compulsory in government-occupied areas of Syria so I left.

Question: How did you meet?
Answer: My future wife, Waad, and I came from the same town roughly halfway between Damascus and Homs. I wanted to get engaged with her but we could not be together, so we got on engaged on line. After we decided to marry, I asked my father who lived near Waad and her family to go to her place. It wouldn’t have been safe for me to go myself. A little later Waad came with my parents and her parents to Lebanon. We married in Lebanon on Christmas Day.

Question: Are you Christians?
Answer: Yes, we are members of the Syriac Orthodox Church. In worship we speak a form of Aramaic called Syriac. It is the language Jesus spoke.

Question: What was it like in Lebanon?
Answer: We were undocumented in Lebanon. We didn’t have permission to stay or work. On the other hand, we couldn’t go back to Syria. It was like a big prison.

Question: How is starting over again in Italy working out for you?
Answer: (Tearfully) With the help of the Waldensian Diaconia and the Chiesa Valdese we are getting a chance for a new life.

Question: You came through Humanitarian Corridors?
Answer: Yes, I learned about Humanitarian Corridors from a friend who knew our situation. He guided me to the right people. I have a brother who came by boat across the Mediterranean. It was a dangerous journey. If we hadn’t been able to come through Humanitarian Corridors, my wife and I might have decided to risk coming by sea too.

Question: Where does your brother live?
Answer: My brother lives in Germany. He has come to visit us in Turin. When we have the documentation we need, we will go to visit him in Germany.

Question: What happened when you went to see the representatives from Humanitarian Corridors?
Answer: They interviewed me and asked about my story. They asked me everything. It took time. After the interview, they checked everything I had said. Then they called me back and said I would have to go to the Italian embassy. By the time we got to the embassy, everything had been arranged by Humanitarian Corridors. I remember they took my finger prints. They took my finger prints again at the Leonardo da Vinci Airport when I arrived in Rome. Then they took my finger prints again in Turin.

Question: When did you come to Italy?
Answer: We came on June 16, 2016. We were in the third group to arrive in Italy with Humanitarian Corridors.

Question: How long will it take to become fully legal?
Answer: I don’t know and I am not sure it matters. In the meanwhile my life is going on. We are not in danger. I am learning Italian. I don’t care about the legal technicalities. I am doing fine.

Question: Can you say what it meant for you to have the opportunity to come by Humanitarian Corridors?
Answer: My situation and that of my brother who came by sea are completely different. He had to cross the sea in a boat and then travel many days by land along the Balkan route. Everywhere along the way, there were people who viewed my brother with hostility. Thanks to the Humanitarian Corridors program, we came in an airplane with our suitcases. We are already living in a flat of our own. My brother is in a camp. He said it was like a prison for him.

Question: What do you hope for now?
Answer: We hope for the deaths in the sea to stop. We want the war to stop. Waad has started learning Italian. We hope she will be able to continue her study. She wants to get a kindergarten teaching credential. Sometime we want to have kids.

Question: What do you do?
Answer: I am a civil engineer in topography. Unfortunately the Italian authorities do not recognize my degree but I hope that will change.

Question: It must be difficult to talk about your story…
Answer: We want Americans and Europeans to know our story because when they do they will be more likely to help other people from our country to come to Italy through the Humanitarian Corridors program.

Question: Is there anything more we should know about you or about what you have experienced?
Answer: The Italian people are the best. They are the best because they are helping us so much. The people who are working with us have become like family to us.

Nazim and Waad came to Lampedusa from Turin to take part in events marking the third anniversary of the sinking of a boat near Lampedusa resulting in 368 refugees being drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. The interview was conducted by Duncan Hanson.