Local News

Syria to Jordan: A family's tale of fear, flight and finding purpose in helping others

Posted October 1, 2016

Syrian refugees in Jordan are forbidden by law from finding work.
(Photo courtesy Ned & Marian Walsh)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ned and Marian Walsh of Johnston County traveled to Jordan, a country where he did missionary work as a young man, to aid, teach and share the stories of Syrian refugees – the "collateral damage" of that country's on-going civil war.

Ned Walsh wrote this account of one family's story of flight from Syria and the thumb of Bashar al-Assad.

When the “Arab Spring” sparked freedom demonstrations in the city of Damascus, Syria, against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the al-Assad government severely cracked down arresting many. Those arrests, in turn, led a Syrian attorney, who believed in the cause of the demonstrations, to offer his legal services, free of charge, to those who have been arrested and remained in prison.

The attorney’s name is Abu Nabil. His defense of the arrested demonstrators caught the attention of the al-Assad regime, which quickly ordered him to cease his legal services to those demonstrators. He refused to do so and continued his work on behalf of those calling for more freedoms in Syria.

Nabil began receiving threats that something bad would happen if he did not stop helping those who demonstrated against the al-Assad regime.

He recounted that one beautiful, quiet day, he and his wife were out in their garden working. Their 9-year-old daughter, Maria, went inside their house to retrieve something.

Suddenly, the silence and beauty of the day was shattered by two quick and loud explosions that destroyed their house and car.

Nabil immediately rushed into the house knowing that Maria was somewhere in the rubble. He found her in the bathroom, buried under the rubble of the explosions of the bombs. At first he thought she was dead. She was covered in blood and had suffered serious head and facial wounds.

He knew then that his life in Syria was over, that he and his family must now flee south to Jordan with just the clothes on their backs and what money they had in their pockets!

Refugees in Jordan 'Home' for refugees: No jobs, no school, no medical care

Maria was alive but in critical condition. Nabil tried in vain to find medical assistance as they fled south toward the Jordanian border. They fled mostly at night by car and had to bribe the drivers – they knew that the Assad secret police were looking for him and his family.

There is much more to their story of their flight out of Syria to Jordan, but space and time are short. It could be made into a motion picture! Syrian refguees Johnston County couple's quest puts human face on 'collateral damage'

Upon their arrival in Amman, Jordan, they knew no one and had no where to stay. For several days and nights, during the cold month of January (and it does snow here in Jordan!), they lived under a bridge.

It was Nabil and his family’s good fortune that a member of the staff of the Collateral Repair Project discovered their desperate situation and took them in.

Today, Nabil is a valuable member of the Collateral Repair Project’s staff. He is giving back. He understands what it is like to be a hopeless refugee. His daughter has fully recovered from her wounds and is attending a Jordanian school.

It would be an honor to have a man like Nabil and his family emigrate to the United States!


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