Author: Steve Bagnall
Three Syrian sister refugees who were given haven in Wrexham have told of the horrors they faced as war tore their homeland apart.
Gun fire, bombs, air strikes and the fear of being killed were a terrifying fact of every day life for Yasmin, 36, Eman, 38 and Sanaa Sofi, 33, in the middle-eastern country where war has raged for years.
It has reduced vast swathes of the once beautiful country to rubble, destroying homes and livelihoods, killing tens of thousands and forcing countless others to flee in search of safety.
Their sobering story comes as Wrexham launched its bid to be designated a “Town of Sanctuary” for its ongoing efforts to welcome and aid refugees.
The tipping point for Eman, a 38-year-old accountant who was working in a hospital, was when a huge nearby explosion that felt like “an earthquake” claimed the lives of two colleague doctors, killing and injuring many more.
They acquired papers to get medical supplies in Iraq, but never went back to their home in North East Syria, which was close to the border with Turkey – and asked to be resettled.
The sisters were eventually offered a new home in Ruabon and arrived in Wrexham on June 6 2017, where they have received a warm welcome and where they now hope to bring the rest of their family.
Yasmin, a 36-year-old radiographer, said: “We registered with the UN (United Nations) and asked them to resettle us in another country and the UK accepted us and told us we had to travel to Wrexham, we didn’t know where Wrexham was.
“We lived in a Kurdish area and there is a way between Syria and Iraq and Kurdish people organised papers for us to visit Iraq as visitors to get medical stuff, but we didn’t go back.”
‘I was scared for my life and for my family’
Eman said: “It was terrifying, every morning I woke up in fear and scared that if i walked to my job, then maybe I wouldn’t make it and maybe get shot or there would be an explosion, or something would happen to me, so it was really difficult for me to lead this kind of life. I was scared for my life and for my family.
“It was my decision to leave Syria with my parents and another sister to go to Iraq and then have the opportunity to resettle in the UK and then in Wrexham.
“It was a very difficult decision, but I made it after a big explosion happened in my home city. I was in my work in my job and the centre of the explosion was only about 10 minutes from my place.
“I thought there was an earthquake and because I was working in a hospital as an accountant, I saw injured and dead bodies, coming inside the hospital and there were two of my colleagues who were doctors, who had been killed in that explosion and it was really shocking.”
She added: “Our lives were in danger every single day in Syria.”
British Red Cross
Before they arrived, the British Red Cross had organised where they would live. They met a representative from the charity at Manchester Airport who took them to their new home which was set up for them to move into.
“They warmly welcomed us,” said Yasmin.
Eman said: “I am happy to be here, but I still have some grief in my heart, my parents still live in Iraq, so my thoughts and heart are thinking about them and their situation and how they are.”
Yasmin said they would love to be reunited with their parents and doesn’t see her future in Syria, but here in the UK.
“If they came here, I would never think to go back home,” she said.
Eman added: “I don’t think the situation will be good, everything is going to be worse and worse, day by day – there are no guarantees there. Everything has been destroyed in Syria -the humanity – Arabs and Kurdish and Sunnis – everyone is like enemies. It is a very separated society.”