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A second chance for Syrians

As Bashar AlAssad begins a third seven-year term in Syria, the suffering continues as Syrians try to recover from the destruction. The situation as it stands is horrible, Syria has been reduced to a pile of rubble, the Free Syrian Army has formed and fights against the military that was supposed to protect the people. Syrians have been imprisoned, gassed, shot, raped and tortured post-Arab Spring. They have lost their homes, their lives and their loved ones when they dared to dream of a democratic Syria.

But while the various tolls that calculate the displaced and the diseased continue to rise, the dust settles on the story that the world was bombarded with everyday for years. Syria has been getting less and less coverage as people turn their attention to various other issues in the Middle East. But regardless of whether CNN or BBC cover Syria, the problem is still there and the people are still suffering.

When faced with a situation of complete loss, one is also faced with major decisions that would alter one’s future completely. This was the case for Jasim Dandachi, a born and bred Syrian who lived in the outskirts of Homs with his wife, three sons and daughter. Dandachi is not a political man, he prefers a peaceful life, but the fact that AlAssad reigned over his home for decades irked him. “We all had had enough. Enough of the oppression and the suffering,” explains Dandachi. “So we took to the streets in a peaceful way after we saw what happened in Tunisia and Egypt. We thought we deserved democratic freedoms as well.”

But the kind people of Syria didn’t know what awaited them when they decided they wanted to express their opinions about their longtime president. “We all thought he had lost his mind, how could a president kill his own people?” says Dandachi. Refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are overflowing with broken families. Dandachi remained in Syria but was not spared of these horrible concerns when his son didn’t make it home one night. “We had no idea where he was for forty days. They wouldn’t even tell us if he was alive or not,” says Dandachi still distraught by the memories. Mohamed Dandachi, 27 years old and the oldest of the Dandachi clan, was given over to authorities by a neighbour who accused him of speaking out against the regime. Any criticism of the AlAssad family is met with a life sentence in prison. The grieve striken family was relieved when Mohamed was released from prison and decided that it was time to think about leaving the place they always called home.

“I lost everything. I lost my home, my business, my freedom. 27 members of my family were victims of AlAssad’s attacks,” says Dandachi. “Syria isn’t what it used to be and I realized that it was time to leave. I couldn’t take the risk that the next bullet that came down would take away one of my kids or my wife.”

Dandachi applied for refugee status with the United Nations and waited in Lebanon until he would be given his new place of residence. By this time, Homs had fallen and Dandachi’s family home was nothing more than a pile of rocks. His first glimmer of hope came when the UN got in touch with him to let him know that Germany had opened its doors to displaced Syrians. It would allow them to live in the country for two years and then assess the situation in Syria, if it’s stable they would be sent back home. Dandachi knew that the situation would remain this way for many years to come and wanted a more permanent solution. At this point, there was no going back home for the Dandachi family.

And so Canada’s minister of citizenship and immigration Chris Alexander announced that Canada would be bringing in 1150 Syrian refugee families. Some would be government funded and others would be privately funded. Canada was offering Syrians a second chance and this was exactly what Dandachi was waiting for.

Dandachi sheds a tear as he describes his gratitude for what Canada did for him. “I can’t thank Canada enough for what it did for me, it saved my family and gave us a second chance at life,” says Dandachi. “We are safe here and we have our dignity back. No words can describe my gratitude for such an amazing country.” Two of his sons check out McGill and Concordia University to continue the BA’s they had begun in Syria. The youngest is looking into the high school he will be attending in the fall. As for the parents, they hope to learn French and make their Laval apartment a home.

Prince Arthur Herald
Photo Credit: Twitter, @Guardian