Basem Alhasan and his wife moved to Houston with their children in 2013. The Iraqi family fled to Syria in 2008 and spent 5 years waiting to be granted asylum. “He used to work at an American company in Iraq and [the militia] were telling him, ‘you need to leave Iraq before we kill your family and do a lot of bad stuff to you.’” His young daughter, Zahraa explained.
After he and his brother were threatened, Basem packed his then pregnant wife, Jaumna, and young daughter, Zahraa, into their car and made the journey to Syria in 2008 where they applied for asylum in America. The family enjoyed life in Syria for several years while waiting for their paperwork to be processed. Jaumna gave birth to their second daughter and Zahraa attended school. “[Syria] was good. We went places that were green. [We enjoyed] lots of green plants and nature.” Zahraa explained.
The Syrian Civil War in 2011 brought an end to the peace and changed their way of life. The family never planned to stay in Syria and they found themselves in a country in the throes of a violent civil war. They were unable to sleep at night, often awoken by nearby gunshots, explosions and militia raids. Every bump and bang in the night sent the young family scrambling for cover while they waited for their asylum approval. “I feared for my children. No school, no everything.” Basem said. Zahraa chimed in, “There were a lot of fights over there. The ground was always shaking. I was only in school for 4 days. Then my mom said, ‘you can’t go to school.’ By my school, there were soldiers that were killing students.”
The Alhasan’s asylum request was granted in 2013 and they boarded a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Shortly after arriving, Basem visited a doctor for frequent leg pain and was informed that he needed an operation. Several surgeries later, Basem was in worse shape than before and unable to work. When the doctor insisted on more surgeries, Basem sought a second opinion. The new doctor informed him that the past operations were unnecessary and destroyed his leg. A series of 28 operations to repair the damage has confined him to crutches and he is unable to bend his leg or find work.
Amaanah Refugee Services helped the family with their transition once the three to six months of government aid ended. Their services help resettled families thrive in their new homes. Basem and Jaumna are delighted to be in Houston with their now four children, two girls and two boys. The Alhasan girls love school and Basem beams as he talks about their academic success. Zahraa and Hawraa love to read and they declare that their favorite book is Stewart Little.