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Friday, July 07, 2006 

Syrians in the US

An excellent piece by George Ajjan exclusively for the Syria News Wire.

George is a political writer based in New Jersey, originally from Aleppo. More on him here and his exciting project Syriapol here.

Syrians in the US
George Ajjan, for the Syria News Wire

Syrians have had a documented presence in the United States of America since its inception. In fact, a soldier named Nathan Badeen, who hailed from the Horan, fought with the American colonists to win their independence from the British crown during the Revolutionary War.

A large wave of immigrants from Greater Syria began arriving on American shores in the late 19th century through the end of WW I, well before the borders of today's republics were drawn (and before there was any such thing as an Arab-Israeli conflict), identifying themselves as "Syrian". These include the famous poet Khalil Gibran (who addressed his poem I Believe in You to "Young Americans of Syrian origin") and the author Abraham Rihbany (who wrote The Syrian Christ). The well-respected St. Jude Children's Research Hospital raises money under the ALSAC umbrella, which stands for "American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities".

However, in more recent years, Syrian immigrants asssociate strongly with the Syrian Arab Republic and most retain their citizenship. The overwhelming majority, while aware of the regime's shortcomings, tend to reflexively defend it. This is probably due to the fact that most of these individuals have prospered in the US, and have been able to send enough money back to Syria so that their families live comfortably. The current situation works to their benefit and consequently they prefer stability in Syria above all else. They tend to be apolitical in general, although this trend is changing because Arab-Americans feel that their civil rights in the US have been eroded in the past 5 years.

A handful have emigrated from Syria to the US for political reasons over the past few decades, and recently, these individuals have begun to organize exiled opposition groups, albeit with limited success. Many Syrians in the US, despite their gripes with the Syrian regime, tend to refrain from publicly stating their opposition, probably because they prefer to visit their home country without political baggage that will arouse government suspicion for themselves or their families.

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