Syrian Mom Caught Between War And Peace

Ahlam with her newborn on the Brooklyn Bridge. (Photo courtesy of Ahlam, via F2W)

Ahlam, a doctor from Syria’s northwestern town of Ariha, came to the U.S. to give birth to her daughter. Three months later she is facing a wrenching decision about whether or not to return to her civil war-ravaged country.

The 28-year old ophthalmologist could lose her medical residency in a hospital in Ariha if she doesn’t report back by the end of this month when her maternity leave ends, reports Yael Even Or in Feet in 2 Worlds.

The fate of her career aside, Ahlam is worried more about the safety of her husband who has his family and a private medical practice in Ariha. Ahlam has been resisting pressure from her parents in New York to stay and is determined to rejoin her husband.

“I don’t want to stay here because if things will get worse there I won’t be able to go back anymore and see my husband,” she explained.

Her husband, Ismael, cannot join her in the U.S. because he doesn’t have a visa. Getting an American visa is now more difficult for Syrians after the U.S. embassy in Damascus officially closed last year. The Obama administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Syrians already in the country in March 2012. However, it is not offering a pathway to asylum to Syrians, such as Ahlam’s husband, who do not have a U.S. visa to travel here.

Ahlam says she had no choice but to come to the U.S. to give birth since the three medical centers in her town had been bombed and were not operational. According to her, the hospital in Idlib city, the closest to her town, only treated supporters of  President Bashar al-Assad and she is with the opposition.

“We are without electricity, without water, without gas, without fuel,” Ahlam said while playing recordings on her iPhone of shootings just outside her window in Ariha. “You wake up in the morning; if you hear gunfire you stay home, if you don’t you go to work. When I go to work I may find the bus (is running) or I may not find the bus. We can’t use private cars or taxis because the army will take them from us.”

Alham, who has not seen her husband in over three months, maintains contact with him through a shaky landline since there is no internet or cellular service in their hometown.

“My husband is there now and we are in this together,” the delicate looking Ahlam stated firmly. “When I’m here and not knowing what’s going on there my mind is always busy.”

Despite the risks, if Ahlam doesn’t find a way to bring her husband to New York, she is determined to return to Ariha. “The last two years were horrible,” she said, “you have no idea and no one here can really understand, but I’ll take the chance to go back.”

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