Straight Outta Syria

Orange County is home to growing numbers of refugees from that country's growing civil war

"You have one hour to come with Basel [Shami] to our office, or we will go after your women," they told his father.

Ten minutes later, Shami's family and relatives drove to Lebanon with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are among more than 74,000 Syrians who have so far fled to the tiny country of 4 million, which is fraught with its own instability and sectarian division.

"They don't have anything in Lebanon," says Shami. "They're trying to register my [younger] sister in an American school, but her English is not that good."

Jared Boggess

Shami also has an older sister who was supposed to get married six weeks after she fled to Lebanon, but with her husband stuck in Syria, she had to postpone the wedding indefinitely. His family recently tried to obtain a visa to the U.S., but to no avail.

Shami and Soori—both of whom are here on student visas that will eventually expire and are terrified of returning to Syria—recently met with a private immigration attorney, who told them their circumstances bode well for attaining asylum. Soori now takes English classes at a local community college. Shami had been about to enter his senior year in college when he left Syria.

Now he is starting all over again. They, along with the rest of the Syrian exodus, are trying to move on, but memories of the violence and continuing worries over their families and their country haunt their minds. "He feels like he doesn't have a relaxing moment in his brain to study and search and learn," Soori's relative says as she translates for him; he often switches to Arabic when asked to elaborate on his experience. "He feels disturbed."

As the number of refugees surges, as rebels increasingly gain ground in Syria, as the government continues to express its will to stay, hope wavers for some Syrians and is reinforced in others. "I have seen enough blood and death to last me a thousand lifetimes," Bassemy says. His eyes well up. There's a long, heavy pause. He looks down, rubs his eyes and inhales deeply, then looks up again.

"But I'm still standing on my feet."

*Name was removed, per request.

This article appeared in print as "Straight Outta Syria: Thousands are fleeing Syria's civil war—and growing numbers of refugees are heading to Orange County."

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We need Syria's troubles about as much as we needed Mexico's troubles which is to say we didn't and don't need them at all. These people don't build up America, they destroy it. Let's stop being codependent and make people solve their own problems.


"When extended relatives in Orange County discovered Soori had been arrested, one of them rushed to a local community college and registered Soori and his cousin Basel Shami as international students; shortly after, both young men received student visas to travel to the United States"


Damm!!!! why couldn't Mexicans think of that


How do we know we are not getting infiltrators into the Country, among the bona fide refugees




For heaven's sake man, have a heart!  The Syrian people I know are very hard workers and extremely hospitable!  I am proud that they can find refuge here

in America.  Have you forgotton the entire concept of our great country?  With a name like Guerro, where did you come from?


This is really not a great idea.  We never learn.  Can the first Syrian street gang be far off?


 @Guerro I'm sure just like the bloods and crips or better yet the mexican zetta or cartel.. Yep these Syrians who have been driven from there homes by force, some of their family members murdered as the world watches because there is not enough oil beneath the earth in Syria. So We shall just sit and watch them get slaughtered by the thousands but hey have you heard; they are coming to America to start street gangs.. Not, that's a mexican thing. 


You advocate extorting yet more billions from what remains of ailing U.S. taxpayers to build yet another hate-America Muslim theocracy (this time in Syria) while implanting yet another dysfunctional "community" of violent anti-Americans into the U.S. simultaneously?


That makes no sense. You can play the world's policeman if you want to with your own life and on your own dime but keep us out of it. But that's not what people like you agitate for. You want your fellow Americans to be financially extorted by an out-of-control government while American lives are sacrificed to build yet another Muslim theocracy to hate them and their descendants.


People like you are stupider than dirt. Obviously, it would be much easier, cheaper, logical, and safer for U.S. citizens and their progeny (in both the short and long run) to simply strip you of your U.S. citizenship and deport you to Syria instead!


There you can find your happiness learning to walk your own talk.