Nashville Hosts Refugee Families From Syria

Posted at 10:28 PM, Aug 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 00:01:13-04

As the U.S. reaches its goal to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees, some families have landed in Nashville.

Tuesday in Music City, in a room at Catholic Charities, you could hear music unlike what you might hear around downtown or in the Honky Tonks on Broadway.

The Al Zoubi family strummed and drummed to the beat, singing in Arabic.

"I play the lute, piano and drums," said 20-year-old Hasan Al Zoubi.

The family likes to say music was what brought them here. The Federal Government had hundreds of cities to choose from.

"There's a chance because they knew I was a musician, they brought us to Nashville," laughed dad Ahmed Al Zoubi, speaking through an interpreter.

Ahmed, his son Hasan and his wife Mufeda are three of the 72 people fleeing from war-torn Syria who ended up in Tennessee.

"Our climate is pretty reasonable, our cost of living is reasonable, jobs are available," said Catholic Charities Director of Refugee Services Kellye Branson.

This week the U.S reached its commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees from Syria,  made by President Obama last year.

After his announcement, there was strong political disagreement from some, including Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.

"Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to allow more people into this country. What are they thinking?" he asked in a recent interview with Fox News.

He and many Republicans in Tennessee have suggested the U.S. stop allowing Muslims into the country temporarily, citing security concerns.

But folks who work to resettle the refugees in question said they go through a rigorous, 2-year process that includes multiple background checks and interviews.

"They're the most well-vetted travelers to the U.S. of anyone who comes here," Branson said. Around 13 families from Syria have settled in Nashville since the declaration from the President.

The Al Zoubis say they don't have a home left in Syria since the civil war broke out five years ago.

"The conflict started," Hasan said through an interpreter, "it was a disaster. We were children and we saw tanks and killing happening in front of us."

His older brother died in an accident and that's when the family decided they couldn't stay any longer. The fled to Jordan and lived there, waiting for news on their paperwork.

They say the language is hard and transitioning can be tough, but they're making friends.

"So many new friends!" said Hasan "Americas, Mexicans, I've been to Kentucky," he laughed.

He's even learned a few English words. When asked his favorite place to spend time out of the house?

"Downtown," he said in English, with a smile. Hasan left Jordan without being able to finish high school. He says he's prioritizing a job to help his family, but hopes to finish his lessons on the side.

The Al Zoubis only been in the city a couple months but they said it's already becoming their home.

"I'm planning to stay in Nashville (forever)," said Hasan's mother Mufeda through an interpreter, "I love Nashville and I love the people of Nashville."

Catholic Charities said most refugees get jobs and are self-sustaining in less than four months. Learning English can take much longer.

The office said around 1,400 refugees usually resettle in the state every year. About 1,200 of those usually wind up in Nashville.

Between Oct. 2015 and June 2016, 72 Syrians settled in Nashville. In that same time 243 came from Iraq, 206 from the Republic of the Congo, 168 from Somalia and 119 from Burma.