Friday, July 29, 2016

Helping Refugees in North Carolina

Helping Refugees in North Carolina

by James (Munir) Perry, Muslims for Social Justice organizer

Suleiman Alzoubu, 35, and Tawfeek  Alzoubi, 37, not related but both are from the Syrian City of Daraa. Sitting and talking with them about how they came to be refugees from Syria living in Raleigh NC, I realized they’re no different from any other family from any part of the world except for the fact that they have lived through the trauma of Civil War and becoming refugees.

Tawfeek says prior to the civil war they were normal people living normal lives in the city of Daraa, Syria. The town had a lot of shops, restaurants, and activity. In 2012 things took a sudden turn that changed the course of their lives.

 I purposely did not use the terms; rebels or terrorist, I wanted to hear from them what they thought was the cause of the violence. They never once brought up politics, ethnic conflicts, or religion. They shared, the only force protecting them from the Syrian Army attacks were the Syrian Free Army.

Suleiman was living and working in Dubai when he received news that civil war had broken out in his homeland and the government soldiers were causing residents of other villages close to Daraa to flee for their lives. So, he bravely returned to Syria from Dubai to be with his family.
One by one the shops began to close as the situation became more and more dangerous, until there were no more shops open in the village. Tawfeek shares how the people had developed a civilian network from village to village that allowed people of his, and neighboring villages to get supplies to each other. Daily life had become a struggle to survive. Their village was fired on by bombs, rockets, and sniper fire. Tawfeek shares too many of his neighbors and friends died due to short range gunfire, too many to comprehend.

Suleiman Alzoubu
Photography by James Perry

Things deteriorated to the point that Suleiman and Tawfeek had to flee to other villages with their families to survive. While fleeing their village on a crowded bus full of men, women, and children, the bus was attacked by the Syrian Military. 

Suleiman was shot in his arm and leg during the attack, and his wife Demah was shot in her leg and has suffered some hearing loss from the bombs and rockets blast, others on the fleeing bus were also injured or killed. (From Allah we come...)

Suleiman had to leave his family in a Daraa village so he could travel to Jordan for 4 months to receive medical attention for his injuries, which he is still recovering from.

Their story is the horrifying reality of civil war that most people have never seen, these unarmed citizens trying to flee for the safety of themselves and their families were like sitting ducks fired upon with rockets, bombs and sniper rounds by their own army, which should’ve protected them instead. “I’m trying to understand what would drive Muslim Syrian soldiers to kill children?

Tawfeek relates that it was a very hard on the children particularly in the tent camps, fleeing violence and living in makeshift camps along the way to Jordan, and getting refugee status. He says it was very negative and rough living in refugee camps. A bright spot; The people of Jordan including the soldiers treated them kindly.

Tawfeek Alzoubi
Photography by James Perry

Tawfeek's brothers were captured by Syrian soldiers and tortured but later released. His cousin wasn’t as fortunate, he was killed. (From Allah we come...) Suliman and Tawfeek along their families lived in refugee camps eventually making renting an apartment in Jordan in 2012 until June 2016.

Moving to Jordan and eventually the US was difficult for the children because of the cultural differences It has taken the children time to adjust. While in Jordan they made contact with the UN and eventually received refugee status which allowed them to get services from organizations that work with refugees, in their case the International Organization for Immigration. They accepted immigration to the United States, Raleigh NC arriving in June 2016, less than two months ago.
Since arriving in Raleigh the brothers and their families have received relocation support services from Lutheran Services Carolina and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants – NC, Muslim Net, North Raleigh Masjid, and many others generous local Muslims and businesses. Suliman and Tawfeek biggest surprise was how welcoming and supportive the Raleigh Muslim Community has been to them.  As you can imagine moving to a new country and new culture, were you are forced to start life over is not an easy transition. These two families and many others like them here in Raleigh need our continued support and prayers while adjusting to their new life in America.

I interviewed Nasser Shahin, Director of Al-Muslim Net. He shared with many the wonderful comprehensive support they offer to new immigrant families to the Triangle.  Muslim Net is notified by Lutheran Services or USCRI that a new family is coming to Raleigh or Durham NC. Muslim Net is a 100% volunteer and donation driven organization, however, the work they do is amazing. When a new immigrant family is arriving Muslim Net gets right to work preparing for their arrival. Social Service agencies could learn a lot from this volunteer organization. They setup transportation and “meet and greet” from the airport; they provide completely furnish apartments for the arriving families with just about everything they need:
Stocked refrigerators; pots and pans; washer and dryers; hot food; transportation to appointments; translation services; orientation to their new city; cell phones; job searches; children’s school registration; school supplies; toothpaste and just about anything else they may need to make their transition from refugee to new immigrant as comfortable and worry free as possible. 

For all of the great work that Nasser and his organization is doing coordinating donations and services they are not in search of praise Alhumdulilah! They say if it wasn’t for the great response and generosity from the Triangle Muslim Community, they wouldn’t be able to provide for the needs of our new immigrant families.

During the month of Ramadan Muslim Net provided all of the services and donations listed above to 1 new family every 4.5 days.  Nasser says providing all of the support services to a new family every 4 days is very intense and demanding. Muslim Net is in need of volunteers and continued donations so they can continue to provide these amazing services to new immigrant Muslim families.

If you like to volunteer or donate to Muslim Net contact them at,, and request to be added to their email list. Nasser says no donation or volunteer effort is too small. This is the real Islam the media tries to hide, but the light of Islam will continue to shine on.

Thank you to Tawfeek, Suleiman and their families for sharing their life-changing events with us.
Thank you to Tareq Ali for facilitating and translating for the interview. Thank you to all of you who have assisted our brothers and sister in any way at all. May Allah reward you and bless you.

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