Emilie and Siwar met at a small party in our home. They both have a gentle spirit, a quiet confidence and a heart to help those in need. It was easy to see why they fell in love.
Although they are so well-suited, the motivation of their love has often been questioned by people from their own communities and countries. One was born in America and one in Syria - different cultures, different life experiences, different continents.
The start to their marriage hasn't been easy,
but they will overcome because they are one in spirit.
It’s confusing to be a Syrian-American family in 2021. To be a union of two nations who fear each other, distrust each other. To always fall between the cracks of paperwork and policies. There is no box for us. Even the Turkish officials are stumped at how to handle our existence.
Sandwiched between stereotypes, we brush off the spoken and unspoken assumptions over and over. “Are you sure he’s not marrying you to get a visa?” “Just be careful. I knew a middle eastern guy who…” “So when is she taking you to the U.S?” “Can she find an American wife for me too?” And in the end they’re always surprised, “You met here in Turkey? She can’t take you to America?”.
The idea that we would willingly put ourselves in a difficult position, that I would give up my ability to travel freely, is shocking, but we didn’t come up with this idea. We know someone who gave up unlimited power to become a helpless infant because of love.
Being a Syrian-American family in 2021 can be lonely. I often feel that nobody knows we exist. We don’t know anybody else like us. Arab-American families, sure. Turkish-American families, of course. Syrian Kurdish-American families living in Turkey? Not one. But in the face of this loneliness there is a delight, a pride.
I’m proud of who we are. I’m proud of the English-Kurdish-Turkish-Arabic dialect that only we speak. Our lack of a neat label can make people uncomfortable, but that too is a strength. We are uniquely positioned to challenge stereotypes, to show that love is stronger than fear, political agendas, cultural differences.
Siwar and I are not welcome in my country and would almost certainly be killed in his, and this forces us to put stock only in our heavenly citizenship. The current world was not made for families like ours, but the Kingdom of God is. In God’s kingdom we can skip right over the “Caucasian” and “Middle Eastern” boxes and check “every tribe, every tongue”.
I want to work my hardest to raise our daughter with rock solid knowledge that she is first and foremost a citizen of God’s kingdom. Whenever someone calls her “ejnabiya”, a foreign girl, or hears her speaking Arabic or Kurdish and asks, “But where are you really from?” my hope is that she will feel an even greater sense of belonging knowing that she represents heaven.
It’s not easy to be a Syrian-American family in 2021, but it is an honor. Every day it leads me on a path that reminds me of Jesus, the prophet who wasn’t even welcome in his own town. It is full of frustrating, lonely, and difficult moments, but it is a privilege I wouldn’t trade for any easier option in the world.