Interview for

Khadija Al-Ahmad

7/20/2020

Interviewed By:

Alice McGuinness

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 52:24
Summary

Khadija Al-Ahmad speaks of her experience resettling in the U.S. after fleeing Syria through Turkey during the war, struggling to adjust to life in Connecticut with her new baby daughter and disabled son. She describes her difficulties finding a comfortable Muslim community and starting a catering business that faced hardship in the pandemic.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Khadija Al-Ahmad

Date: Interviewed, August 20, 2020

Location: Narrator: Hamden, CT / Interviewer: Milwaukee, WI (Virtual)


Content Warning: Mentions of violence and war

Summary: Khajida Al-Ahmad, an immigrant from Aleppo, Syria, describes her experience fleeing with her family to Turkey and then New Haven, Connecticut in the United States, and the subsequent cultural and professional adjustments.

Topics: Cultural adjustment, Language, Family, Disability, Education, Employment, Food, Religion, Community, Immigration


Outline

Section 1: (00:00-10:12)

  • Family: Khajida, her husband, and their four children are from Aleppo, Syria. They welcomed a daughter in July 2018.

  • Cultural Adjustment: Khajida and her family moved from Syria to Turkey in 2015, which was more similar to their cultural background in Syria. She experienced culture shock upon their move to the US, specifically New Haven, Connecticut.

  • Language: Khajida previously studied English in Syria, but practiced more when she came to the US. As the most experienced, she was largely responsible for her family.

  • Disability: Khajida’s son, Ahmed, is disabled.

  • Education: Khajida and her family faced logistical challenges in keeping their children in the same school district and gaining more support for Ahmed.

Section 2: (10:12-26:46)

  • Employment/Food:  Khajida created a catering business for Syrian food called Khajida’s kitchen.

  • Religion: Khajida describes that she felt more comfortable in Turkey practicing her religion, and in the US the mosque is different as they do not hear prayer reminders and few people speak Arabic. They also went to the mosque less as a result of the pandemic.

  • Family: Khajida was more accomosted to staying with her family for long periods of time, so the pandemic was not a great adjustment compared to Americans she knew.

Section 3: (26:46-41:00)

  • Community: Khajida details the JCARR organization as helpful in their cultural adjustment and a large source of community support.

  • Cultural Adjustment: In Syria and Turkey, Friday is an important religious and cultural day which most people have off from work. In the US, Khajida and her family had to adjust as they no longer had this time together.

  • Immigration: It is illegal to cross the border between Aleppo and Turkey; Khajida and her family’s car was stopped and intimidated. It continues to be a terrifying memory.

  • Religion: Khajida describes how important religion has been as a comforting reminder anywhere in the world for her.

Section 4: (41:00-51:19)

  • Cultural Adjustment: Khajida keeps aspects of her home culturally similar to Syria, such as watching Arabic channels on TV, putting up pictures from Aleppo, eating Syrian food, etc.

  • Family: In Syria, family units can be considered larger, such as consisting of 20-30 people. Her older children remember the differences between Syria and the US.