Audio Recording of Interview
Ms. Ahmad describes her upbringing in Syria and the adjustments she had to make during her resettlement in both Malaysia after the outbreak of war in Aleppo in 2012 and the U.S. after she immigrated in 2017. She explains her fears of deportation and about procuring education for her children, her feelings of separation from her Syrian family, and her loneliness as the sole Arab family in her neighborhood – but also expresses hope for the future.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Amina Ahmad
Location: White Plains, NY
Summary: Ms. Ahmad describes her upbringing in Syria and the adjustments she had to make during her resettlement in both Malaysia after the outbreak of war in Aleppo in 2012 and the U.S. after she immigrated in 2017. She explains her fears of deportation and about procuring education for her children, her feelings of separation from her Syrian family, and her loneliness as the sole Arab family in her neighborhood – but also expresses hope for the future.
Topics: Childhood, Employment, Family, Religion, War, Cultural Adjustment, Conditions Back Home, Immigration Process, Identity, Generational Differences
Section 1: (00:00-5:38)
Childhood - Ahmad was born in Syria in 1971. She grew up in a farming family with seven children and without her father, who passed away in 1975.
Employment - Moved to Aleppo in 1988, where she worked in a clothing factory, starting as a sewer but moving up into the administration after a few years. She worked six days a week, 12 hours a day.
Family - In her free time, Ahmad’s favorite thing to do was have picnics with her sisters and friends.
Section 2: (5:38-9:41)
Religion - While Ahmad’s mother was religious, she doesn’t consider herself to be very religious — she mostly just participated in the cultural side.
When she was younger, Ahmad covered her head, but decided to stop covering her head and start wearing pants and short-sleeved shirts in 1994.
Ahmad didn’t see this is a religious decision, but a decision she made after seeing her brother’s wife in cyprus not cover head — why should she have to?
She wanted to break routine and “have [her own] life”
Section 3: (9:41-17:40)
War - Because of the war in Syria, Ahmad moved to Malaysia in 2012 before coming to the United States in 2017.
Cultural Adjustment - It was a big challenge to adjust to the new culture; with the possibility resettlement was unsteady, Ahmad was afraid of being deported, afraid that her children could not go to school, and afraid they would be unable to go to hospitals.
Believed around 90% of the people around her were kind, while 10% were far less so.
Had to learn about Malaysian laws, rules, and culture during her cultural orientation, which she found helpful.
Conditions Back Home - Lost everything — furniture, home, etc. — and was totally separated from her family, with two in Turkey, one in Vienna, and two still in Syria.
After living there for 40 years, Ahmad still feels very connected to Syria, and is upset by the situation there; she doesn’t see Syria as a religious country, and yet the terrorists have caused losses in every family she knows.
Section 4: (17:40-24:57)
Cultural Adjustment - Adjusting to the United states was slightly easier than adjusting to Malaysia, because she found many people around us through the HIAS organization.
One cultural struggle has been explaining their culture in an American context.
Immigration Process - HIAS sponsors helped her find a job, secure an apartment, school for the kids, health insurance, and many other helpful things.
Ahmad can still get in contact with HIAS if she needs anything.
Family - Ahmad has three children, and while they speak perfect English, she tries to make sure that her daughters do not forget Kurdish.
Section 5: (24:57-29:19)
Identity - Ahmad feels like America is home, as it is the place she feels most at peace, where people are the kindest.
Generational Differences - Even if the situation in Syria were to improve, Ahmad would remain in America because she believes that is where her children’s futures will be best.
Cultural Adjustment - There are no Syrian or even Arab families hear Ahmad, and she misses being able to speak her own language, sometimes feeling lonely. But she believes everything will work out — it just takes time.