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Shadi  2

Shadi Martini

Director of Humanitarian Relief and Regional Relations Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees

I'm a Syrian Refugee Living in the U.S.: Ask Me Anything

Violence around the world has forced millions of people to leave their homes. In Syria alone, more than five million people fled the country in six years - an estimated half of whom are children. Shadi Martini, who managed a hospital in Aleppo, escaped his country's brutal civil war in 2012 after he along with his colleagues were found covertly helping injured civilians. As we commemorate World Refugee Day this week, Shadi will give us his own account of leaving the country and update us on his efforts to help Syrians trying to seek safety abroad in at atmosphere that has become increasingly hostile to Muslim refugees.

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Shadi  2

Shadi Martini

Shadi Martini was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria and graduated from the High School Aleppo Scientific College. Martini attended college in Lebanon where he received his BA from Beirut University College in 1993. After graduation, Martini went to Bulgaria and formed his own manufacturing company. In 2009 he returned to Syria to run his family’s business. In March 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on those providing aid to anyone suspected of being in the opposition, Mr. Martini, then the General Manager of a hospital in Aleppo, and his comrades worked covertly to provide aid to wounded and ill civilians. This secret network was discovered in mid-2012, forcing him to flee his country.

  • 40935 1517332567432 2912621 n D Sel

    Hi Shadi - Thanks for tell us your story. Seems like for refugees to get a new life, particularly in the US, it takes a combination of patience and luck. Can you tell us a little bit about the process that you faced?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      In my case it's more luck than anything else. I'm not a typical refugee that came here.In my case I received refugee status through a lottery system and got an immigration visa. That was luck but most of the people who come here to the U.S. come through the resettlement process that takes more than two year to be processed and to enter the United States.

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      I work with people trying to get refugee status, particularly with vulnerable groups, including families with young children, injured people, people who are disabled. I work with organizations to identify these people. It has a lot of do with luck. Only 50% of people who apply actually get into the interview process and start the vetting process. Only 50% get to next step.

  • IS
    Matt S

    The administration referred to "extreme vetting" for refugees from the Middle East, particularly from Syria. From what I read, the vetting already was pretty "extreme." Is there really any danger that people can pose after going through that extensive process?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      First of all, one thing must be made clear- in the case of Syrian refugees, there are 5 million, which is 25% of the UN estimated refugee population in the world. Another number of displaced people who are still inside their countries. So you have 20 million in total around the world and 5 million from Syria. The UN asked for 160,000 refugees to be resettled. It's a fraction of the total number. No one is talking about resettling all of them They don't want to be resettled. For many, they just want to go back home. There re cases where they can't go back home. They're very vulnerable. Through the resettlement process, the U.S. will usually take 50% of UNHCR referrals. Under Obama, this wasn't fulfilled. In 2011-2015, less than 2000 Syrian refugees were resettled.

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      A biig pick up happened in 2016 and the U.S. brought in 18,000-20,000 Syrian refugees in to the country So before this current Administration, the Obama did the same thing. This is why we didn't get a lot of Syrian refugees in the beginning because of the fear of infiltration by terrorists. Here's the issue we could be hit by lightning tin the street, but the probability is very slim. Anything can happen. The likelihood of a U.S. citizen killed by a person with a refugee visa, 1 in 3.6 billion. But if you're a U.S. citizen, the probability of being killed by another U.S. citizen, it's 4 in 100,000.

  • IN
    Ari S

    How do you think the situation in Syria has changed in the past few months? The chemical weapon attack seemed like a major escalation by the Assad regime. is there any hope for a conclusion that would return life to normal for Syrians caught in the crossfire?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      There's no foreseeable resolution for this war. The problem is people are not talking about it. They're talking about fear of ISIS, other terror, etc. That's not how this came about. It was an uprising from the people in Syria demanding change. When the government cracked down that's when biggest wave had to leave Syria. Looking at the statistics, we see 90% of casualties of 500,00 killed were killed by Assad regime. They are the reason ppl are fleeing Syria. ISIS has a role, but the focus is only on them and not what started everything. As ISIS is defeated, we might ave a day when there is no ISIS taking territories. But that won't resolve refugee issue. It's very hard to see in the future calm in some areas. It's hard to see in the future services in areas and infrastructure. Most of this is destroyed, mainly by the Syrian government to squash the opposition. Some might try to come back, most will stay put in neighboring countries.

  • MI

    What can the average person here do to help refugees or people still trapped in syria?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      Of course a lot can be done to help Syrians. The need is huge, but I encourage people not to despair about the scope and complexity. Syrians are creative. They try to live on. But they need help., in medical field, in education, etc. From the five million refugees, a lot are working and living and don't need anything. But a small segment is in desperate shape. They are dealing with death of family members, young children in need, people with disabilities from war, they need our help. There are a lot of organizations working in field to help Syrian refugees. At the Multifaith Alliance this is what we do. Bring together 85 orgnizations to help the Syrian refugees. People who are helping with medicine, education, food distributions, clothing, etc. All of these things are happening now and if someone wants to know how to help visit our website here: http://www.multifaithalliance.org/getinvolved

  • Flower Alice Stein

    Do you think your experience was in any way typical for a Syrian refugee? Do you think luck played a part?

  • Screen shot 2017 03 03 at 3.39.49 pm Jay Massione

    What about the process for refugees? We’ve heard about vetting and “extreme vetting” before and immediately following the election. Sounds like a pretty rigorous process already?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      I think the process is much different than what we saw in Western Europe. Europe is totally different than the U.S. The flow to western Europe has stopped. We have seen in 2016 you don’t see anymore. After March 2016 they stopped. Everyone who came through after 2016 got stuck in Greece. 56,000 refugees are stuck in Greece. Not everyone who went through Europe before that time were refugees, nor were they Syrians. 29% were Syrians. It was a breakdown of barriers, borders to contain this wave and everyone took advatage of this. The numbers were about 1.2 million in 2015. They mainly went to Germany. The problem is you didn't have any vetting of these people, they’re already there before you can start that process. Entirely two difference processes.

  • Willow Willow Barns

    What can you tell us about the Multifaith alliance?

  • Blair Linda Burgess

    What can people do to help Syrian refugees now?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      See my answer above, Linda.

  • Danhealth Dan Nortly

    Seems like the conflict continues to escalate with the addition of international intervention – Russia and the US for example. From your perspective as a Syrian ,what or should other countries do to help?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      People pay attention to what’s on the news. They say to me, "things are better, right?" Then they say, "well we don’t hear about it." But that doesn’t mean the conflict or its effect has gone away. That’s an issue we face. We need more coverage of the situation but I can understand also every country has its own domestic issues, problems that need attention. At the end of the day, we are a small world. A conflict anywhere is affecting someone we know or love. It’s hard but I see a lot of people when they hear about it trying to help and do good and a lot of good things are happening. People just need to know. That’s what the Multifaith Alliance is doing. Explaining the conflict, telling people how they can help so they can get involved and stay involved.

  • Yuhda Yehuda Hiem

    If you can look into a more optimistic future, how can this war end in Syria, and how can that country recover from this disaster?

  • IS
    C Is

    Shadi - thanks for being here. Do you still have friends and family in Aleppo? What have you heard from them?

    • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

      Yes, I do I have aunt and friends in Aleppo. Most of the city is under government control. They are still are living there. There's lot of widespread crime and desperation. The Syrian regime is using militias and paramilitary units and these guys are not following orders. You see crimes, murders, because of the chaos of having militias inside civilian societies. you are also seeing it in areas not controlled by government. The shine is off now. People said ISIS was the worst for the people there. But when it was in their territories, ISIS imposed order and people were able to exist with even some normalcy. Now, there's chaos in these areas.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Using admin privilege to ask a question here - the Multifaith Alliance is doing some great work. Can you tell us what you're most proud of ?

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    We are thrilled to welcome Shadi Martini, a Syrian refugee now living in the United States after fleeing Aleppo. His bio is above, and it's definitely worth a read. Shadi is telling us a little about his story and about the organization he now represents, the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees. http://www.multifaithalliance.org/ Thank you for joining us!

  • Shadi  2 Shadi Martini

    Thank you for having me. And thank you to israel360 for bringing attention to the Multifaith Alliance and Syria's refugees.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Thanks so much Shadi for joining us this evening. Any other resources we should let people know about?

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