A Long Way From Aleppo: A Doctor and His Family Try to Rebuild Their Lives in Hoover After Fleeing the Ravages of War

It has been a warm day in early August 2012, in Aleppo, the historic, cosmopolitan Syrian city where you work and live. This day is part of the Muslim month of Ramadan, in which the faithful fast from sunup to sunset. Now the sun is setting, and your oldest son, Fouad, and two of your daughters, Rama and Lydia, are out in the walled garden of your elegant, 14-room home getting ready for iftar, the meal that will break the day’s fast.

Then, overhead, without warning, without invitation, comes a whining, whooshing sound. Seconds later, the ground shudders as a projectile lands outside the wall and explodes. Sounds of gunfire follow. Your children run into the house. Lydia, who is 8, is crying and screaming for her mother, your wife, Latifa.

Before the month is out, you, Latifa, Lydia, your other son, Khaldoun, and your baby daughter, Caroline will have left your bloodied, battered country. By September, Fouad will have left and Rama will have joined relatives, among them your mother and father, who have fled to Turkey.

Your name is Ahmad Faris, you are now 52 years old, and you used to be a well-off, well-known and well-respected surgeon. Now you and your family are among the approximately 5 million Syrians who have left Syria since the civil war’s start in 2011, and you hope that one day, you will practice medicine again.

In the meantime, you, Latifa, Khaldoun, Rama, Lydia and Caroline are now making your home in a place where, on the August day that brought the terror of war over the rooftop of your home in Aleppo, young, high-school-age men are getting ready to don helmets and shoulder pads and practice a war-like game that you still do not fully understand.

This place is Hoover, Alabama. Read more.

Ripples from Mideast Travel Order Reach Alabama Professor

Baher Sabah, a plastic surgeon from the Iraqi city of Babylon, was looking forward to his trip to America. “He loves America,” said Sabah’s uncle, Safaa Al-Hamdani, a biology professor at Jacksonville State University. “When he has come to the United States for any reason, it was just like he won the lottery.”

On tap for Sabah was the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery’s annual scientific meeting on Feb. 9-11 in San Diego. He had his airline ticket. He had his visa and, at the scientific meeting, he would have access to workshops, live patient demonstrations, displays of the latest technologies and, of course, lots of networking opportunities. All in all, said Sabah’s uncle, “a golden opportunity to advance himself.”

Now, as a result of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily halting travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Sabah has put his visa, his ticket and his golden advancement opportunity on the shelf. Read more.

Birmingham, City of Immigrants: Newcomers Follow Opportunity, Face Slurs, Find a Home

March 2016 Special Report from BirminghamWatch, B-Metro

About 18 months ago, when St. Symeon Orthodox Church was building a new sanctuary at its Highland Park site, its rector got a reminder of how much Birmingham has changed since he first came here in the 1980s.

A team of Hispanic workers did the plaster work on the dome inside the new building. They also did the exterior stonework. “They just were tremendously diligent and acquitted themselves so impressively that you couldn’t help but take notice,” says the Rev. Alexander Fecanin, himself the grandson of Russian immigrants. Fecanin also took notice when another team arrived to install the sanctuary’s shiny new hardwood floor. It consisted of a man originally from Romania, along with his son. In the grand scheme of diverse things, the construction project at St. Symeon was a small blip on the radar. But it was yet another marker on the upward climbing graph charting the Birmingham area’s ever greater diversity. “Alabama is no longer…or Birmingham is not a black or white conversation,” says local attorney Freddy Rubio, who came here as an English-challenged Puerto Rican in 1991. “It is white, black, and other, [and] there’s nothing that we can do to stop that.” Read more. . .