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We know the feeling of leaving everything behind: Syrian refugees help Hurricane Irma evacuees Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

We know the feeling of leaving everything behind: Syrian refugees help Hurricane Irma evacuees

Scenes of devastation left by Hurricane Irma are all too familiar for Syrian refugees [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 September, 2017

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Syrians refugees who know too well the feeling of leaving everything behind sprung into action when Hurricane Irma devastated homes in southeastern America.
Syrian sisters Abeer and Nora al-Sheikh Bakri know what it's like to flee their devastated homes and leave everything behind. 

So when Hurricane Irma struck America's southeast last week, displacing more than half a million people by Sunday, they felt compelled to help Florida residents who saw their homes crumble down.

"I called my sister Nora and we got cooking," Abeer, 28, told Huffington Post. They drove an hour to the Hamzah Islamic Center in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Sunday evening, where they said about 39 evacuees were riding out the storm.

There, they cooked up a Middle Eastern feast including tabbouleh and kebab.

"We were uprooted from war," Abeer said. "We know the feeling of leaving everything behind."

"I was so afraid when we heard about the hurricane," Nora, 30, said. "Especially us Syrians. We're already traumatised."

The mosque tried to pay the sisters for their cooking, she added, but they wouldn't accept. Instead, they simply took pride in volunteering on behalf of her fellow community members.

"I wanted to be able to help these people, so that these people can feel happiness," she said. "So they don't feel uprooted like how we felt."

The sisters, who fled Douma in 2012 after their country's civil war engulfed the city, spent four years in Egypt before being resettled in Clarkson, Georgia, in 2016 with other members of their families.
"We were uprooted from war. We know the feeling of leaving everything behind."

Nazer Ghazal, a 53-year-old Syrian refugee from Damascus living in nearby Tucker, Georgia, had the same idea.

Ghazal resettled to Georgia from Jordan in November last year. He said he delivered a home-cooked meal including rice, chicken and salad, to Masjid Omar Bin Abdul Aziz mosque on Sunday where approximately 25 evacuees sought shelter.

Like the Bakri sisters, Ghazal understood the feeling of leaving everything behind and starting afresh.

"We were forced to come to the US because of the war, but we're here now and see good in this country," he said Tuesday. "It's on us now to do good here."

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