Grass Valley, CA — With his wide-brimmed hat, Wrangler jeans and ornate belt buckle, Jamil Behaudeen, 33, is one of thousands of Syrian refugees adjusting to a new life in the United States.
After an Assad regime mortar assault leveled their neighborhood in Homs in early 2012, Jamir and his young bride fled with their two small children to a safer part of town. Then, as the city in western Syria further dissolved into chaos in 2013, the family escaped to Jordan in the back of a stolen Toyota pickup truck.
After three grueling weeks of living in a cramped refugee camp without running water or electricity, the family was selected for the United Nation’s refugee resettlement program. After almost six more weeks of seemingly endless background checks and iris scans, they were finally cleared by U.S. immigration services and resettled in Nevada County, California.
“We love it here,” says Jamir with the classic rock song ‘Kashmir,’ blasting in the background. “No longer do we have to worry about terrorism, mass murder, or being persecuted because of our religious beliefs. It’s beautiful country.”
Leaving their homeland was tough, but the Behaudeen family is determined to make the most of what America has to offer. “We are not taking America’s freedoms for granted. We intend to take full advantage of this incredible opportunity.”
They’re hopeful their relatives will soon be able to follow; the Obama Administration announced another wave of Syrian refugees would be resettled before the end of this fiscal year. “I’m hopeful my three brothers fighting Assad are able to join us,” said Jamir, “They look forward to living in a country with free speech, gun rights, and easy access to information.”
Mr. Behaudeen says his wife is unable to speak with us right now, but his son, Fabil, 12, is happy to show off his homemade Star Wars Desert Mission Finn action figure. “Fabil is falling in love with American pop culture,” said the proud father. “He has really taken to Star Wars and Finn’s personal journey of leaving the First Order to fight for the rebel resistance. He is making his own weapons and everything.” Jamir’s beautiful young daughter, A’shadieeyah, 9, is too shy to join in the fun.
Asked if the family has faced any anti-Muslim backlash in Nevada County, Jamir says if they had, they haven’t noticed. “Everyone’s been so nice and welcoming. I can’t wait to repay them all someday.”
Jamir is Internet savvy and using his computer skills to help set up a new social media platform for users who want to share photos, videos, and files to private groups (of up to 200 people) or channels (with an unlimited number of followers). “It helps pay the bills and stay in touch with family and friends back home,” he said.
The Behaudeen family is another Syrian refugee success story you’re unlikely to read about in your local newspaper. While the painful memories of war and death are still fresh in their minds, they are overshadowed by a beaming optimism that can only be described as ‘American.’