Syrians in CLE offer perspective on crisis

Posted at 8:17 AM, Oct 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-03 08:17:36-04
With Russian forces continuing their bombing of targets in war-torn Syria, people half a world away are watching and worrying about loved ones still there.

Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, millions of migrants have fled. Now, Syrian-Americans who call Northeast Ohio home are offering their perspective.

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Sam Sallouha opened The Fountain restaurant in Westlake earlier this year. He and his son Ziad serve up Syrian dishes in the restaurant that's been open since March.

On Friday night, Ziad was busy bussing tables in between his studies at Cleveland State University, but he is not complaining about the workload.

The first-generation Syrian-American said it's all about perspective.

"People who move here and work - they're very grateful for the work they do here," Ziad Sallouha said. "They're very grateful for the money they make here."

Ziad was born and raised in the United States. His father emigrated here in the 1970s from Damascus, which he said was a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews coexisted in relative peace.

"Why did this happen? Why now?" Sam Sallouha asked aloud, referring to the ongoing civil war, invasion of ISIS insurgents and more recent Russian involvement.

Since 2011, millions of Syrians have evacuated their homes, including Sallouha's brothers, sisters and in-laws. They've fled to Egypt, Kuwait and Jordan, he said, anywhere but home.

"I can tell you the whole family is disturbed right now, as not that I'm the only on,  but I'm sure every home in Syria is being affected in the same way," Sallouha said.

That includes some of Ziad's customers her waits on, as well as a classmate at Cleveland State University who moved 6,000 miles to escape.

"He couldn't see his family for an extended period of time," Ziad Sallouha said. "He lost communication with them. He didn't know if they were okay or not for a couple months."

It's those unimaginable conditions he hopes the U.S. government will help alleviate.

"You could come here and work as a dishwasher," he said, "But if you're doing that in Syria and all of a sudden somebody tells you you can't live in your house anymore, what are you to do?"



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