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We have received dozens of phone calls and emails from Syrians in the United States (and beyond) wondering if they have any option to flee the horrifying and worsening situation in Syria.
Bashar al-Assad has been afflicted with what might be called fir'auniyyah, and is unable to see the horror he and his soldiers and shabbihah are inflicting on the proud people of Syria. As a Muslim attorney, his words and actions remind me of the following verse:
قال فرعون ماأريكم الا ماأرى وما أهديكم الا سبيل الرشاد
Pharaoh said: ‘I only point out to you that which I see myself, and I guide you only to the path of rectitude. (Qur'an 40:29)
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you, since the Revolution began, provided aid to any injured person? This can include helping someone to the hospital, providing food, shelter, or medicine, or even telling someone where regime checkpoints are.
- Have you ever talked to a member of the press about the Syrian regime?
- Have you ever joined a social media page (such as Facebook or Twitter) about the Syrian revolution?
- Have you ever "liked" a post on a social media page (such as Facebook or Twitter) that was even mildly critical of the regime?
- Did you ever take part in any demonstration against the Assad regime?
- Have you ever been visited by a regime soldier or mukhabaraat officer?
- Have you ever been arrested while in Syria?
- Have you ever been interrogated by a mukhabaraat officer?
- Have you ever talked to anyone who was later found to be targeted (or killed) by the regime?
- Had you ever been critical of the Assad regime prior to the Revolution?
- Are you related by blood or marriage to anyone who has done any of the activities in (1) through (10), above?
- Are you close friends with anyone who has done any of the activities in (1) through (10), above?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, and you hold a Syrian passport (or a Syrian-Palestinian refugee document) and have never been offered asylum or permanent residence in any other country (iqaamah in Saudi Arabia or other Gulf States does not count as "permanent residence") then you should talk to an immigration lawyer about your options.
Asylum is a very complicated legal proceeding. You might think you have a strong case, but there may be legal obstacles to overcome. For example, if you've been in the United States for more than 1 year, you may be barred from applying for asylum unless you can demonstrate one of the legal exceptions applies to you.
Also, a memorandum of law should accompany your filing, explaining why the things that happened to you qualify you legally for asylum.
If you are granted asylum, after one year you can apply directly for permanent residence. Your spouse and children can generally also join you.