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Every time I speak out as a refugee, I’m terrified

Deep down, there's still a scared and hurt seven-year-old girl hiding behind her mother's skirt.

I tremble inside.

Sometimes, those trembles are more of a battle inside then visible discrepancies outside. I feel an enormous burden of responsibility and guilt on my shoulders, questions battling through me:

Am I eloquent enough?

Will I speak up adequately for those who need my voice?

Did I let them down?

Did I represent them right?

Am I too emotional…or am I too cold?

Will they look at me with pity?

Is my accent going to come out?

They circulate through my head, over and over again.

On November 20th, 2015, the International Socialist Organization from Boston organized a protest, endorsed by dozens of different organizations and movements, to show people’s disappointment with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s decision not to welcome Syrian refugees to the Commonwealth.

Over a thousand people attended the protest.

On behalf of an informal group of activists and community organizers from the Boston area, I went up to say a few words about being a refugee.  Seeing that I did not plan on speaking initially, I didn’t write a speech. I did not prepare at all beforehand.

I stood in front of that microphone and just started talking.

Suddenly, something inside of me simply calmed down all the nerves and silenced all the questions I mentioned above. I stood on the steps overlooking the crowd.

Let me tell you: it was a beautiful sight! I saw a sea of people who spoke up for those whose voices are being shut down…literally and figuratively. I saw people of every color, ethnic and religious background, and walk of life with one common goal: to stand up for some of the most vulnerable people out there.


I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t place much value on other people’s approval, as long as my conscience is at peace. But deep down at my core, there is a 7 year old scared and hurt little girl, hiding behind my mom’s skirt, face in tears, because I desperately wanted someone to deem us worthy of caring and take us away from that misery years ago.

I just wanted someone – anyone –  to care enough to do and say something.

I think that seven-year-old girl finally got a little piece of her heart back that night of the protest.

Yet that wasn’t even the most important thing. The most important thing that people did on that evening was not in giving me back the missing piece of my heart – even though I am immensely thankful for that.

What they did was much bigger and more meaningful: they healed thousands of shattered hearts of refugee children. A few months or years from now, when their healing process starts, they will learn of what these protesters did. They will perhaps meet some of the participants and they will recount this evening’s events to them.

On the other hand, maybe they will see a video or a photo or read an article about it.

While I am a strong advocate of self-help and telling your own story, I have to say: there is something immeasurably beautiful in feeling and seeing the compassion and empathy of one human being towards another and standing up for those who cannot do so themselves. Now, more than ever before, to see one another solely as human beings, without any conditions attached, is simply incredible.

It shows you the beauty of humanity at its core – and there is nothing else like it.

Almost fifteen years ago, I felt as in love with Boston the moment I landed.

Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration because the city was covered in loads upon loads of snow (I am eternally freezing, not to mention, I was wearing high heels). Everything was magical to me. Coming from a war-torn nation that possessed much smaller stores and destroyed libraries, Boston was a joy to behold. From going to a giant supermarket to walking down the street and not seeing destroyed buildings to its most incredible libraries, my heart was happy.

Since that time, Boston and I have gone through some turbulent times, although just like that one love of your life that sticks with you no matter what, Boston stays tucked in the core of mine. Well, I am happy to report: I fell in love with Boston all over again during that one incredible evening.

Thank you, Boston, for not letting bigotry, misconceptions and hatred win.