Eleven years ago, Amal was living a dream in Damascus. She had just married her sweetheart and they were expecting their first child. Amal said she has been writing poetry since she was 8 years old. When she was young she had notebooks full of her careful, hand-written script.
Then, in March 2011, after weeks of peaceful street protests that erupted as part of the Arab Spring, the Syrian government cracked down—hard. They started hunting the protestors and within months, a civil war started to tear the country apart.
For Amal, 2011 – 2013 were dark years. Even though she and her family rarely went outside, danger still found them. One day a bomb hit her home, destroying her cache of poems. “Only 14 poems remained,” she said.
The war would eventually take so much more. Today, Amal keeps close the photos of the four siblings she lost in the war.
More than a decade later, half a million Syrians have died and almost 7 million fled abroad as refugees. The U.S. accepted 20,000 Syrian refugees, far below the numbers accepted by European countries; and Turkey which has 3 million Syrians living in its border.
Finally, in 2013 Amal and her family escaped to Egypt where they lived in exile for two years. Amal kept writing, bleeding her sorrow and grief into prose. Finally, they were granted refugee status in the U.S. She came with her husband, two children and his parents. “Within a few months of arriving, I went to ReWA to learn English.”
Amal is well-known in her English and citizenship classes for her hospitality. One of her teachers, Karin, said: “Amal loves to invite people to her home and she loves to celebrate the milestones in life. When she passed her citizenship exam she invited all her teachers who helped her, to a feast in her home. She is so proud to share her food and her culture.”
Though caregiving for her family full time, Amal continues to write, as a way to remember the loved ones she lost. But she also writes to celebrate the love surrounding her—from her husband, her three school-age children, and her parents-in-law who live with them in Tukwila.