A year ago, when the news broke that a Syrian refugee from Damascus, Sajad, had allegedly been murdered by a jihadist group, there was a sense of urgency.
The United States and its allies had been pushing for a halt to the violence, which had claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions more.
The violence had taken a heavy toll on civilians, who had been killed by coalition airstrikes and by sniper fire.
But with so much of Syria’s population displaced, and the country in turmoil itself, there had been little attention paid to how it had unfolded.
“There was no sense of how many people were being killed,” said Sarah Brierley, a professor at Harvard University and the author of the book Refugees: The Politics of Resettlement.
“This was something that was on the minds of a lot of people around the world.”
For those that did care, there were some clues: Sajade’s father had been a refugee in Aleppo before fleeing the civil war there in 2012, and her mother had been forced into prostitution.
There was even a small, but influential, community of Syrian-Americans living in New York City who, Brierwood explained, saw the murder as part of the cycle of persecution that led to their refugee status.
The Syrian-American community in the U.S. had long been an ally, and they felt it important to see what was happening in Syria.
But there was no organized movement in the Syrian-origin community, as there had always been in the past.
The only other Syrians that had been known to come to the U, Briersley said, were women fleeing sexual violence in the Middle East, and she was unaware of any women who had escaped.
“I don’t know how they were able to get here, and I don’t have the data that I need to know that,” she said.
As a result, it was only after the murder of Sajader that her family started talking to other Syrian-born families that were in the United States.
“The idea of a kid being able to make it was a dream come true,” said Tareq, a Syrian-Arabian refugee who lives in Brooklyn.
“It was like, ‘Oh my god, what are we going to do now?'”
“We started talking about ways to help,” said Yasser, a 26-year-old Syrian refugee who had immigrated to the United Kingdom with his wife and two children a few years earlier.
“They were telling us how much they were struggling and how much we needed to do.”
“They’re asking us how they can help,” Tarese added.
“And they’re giving us their names.”
At first, the idea of organizing a group to support Sajada’s family was a bit far-fetched, but the idea eventually caught on.
“We thought it was crazy, but we thought, we need to do something about this,” said Nader, who came to the UK as a child and is now a refugee.
The family met with a group of Syrian refugees in England, who were also looking for ways to support the family.
The group decided to organize a trip to Turkey, which was then under curfew, so the family could be reunited with their two young children.
Nader and his family were able, and quickly, to organize trips for their children.
The children were enrolled in an English primary school in a suburb of the capital, Ankara, and were spending the day together.
The trip was an important one, said Yassine, who has since moved to the US and is a refugee herself.
“When we got there, I was like ‘Wow, it’s a really cool idea.'”
In the end, the family settled in an apartment in the British capital, and it quickly became clear that the trip would not be a one-off.
“Every week, we’re all sitting together, with food and water, and we just talk about what’s going on in Syria,” said Salim, a 28-year old Syrian refugee.
“As soon as we’re there, we are going to start organizing events, we will get involved with events.
We’re just going to be more and more involved.”
The idea quickly spread across the refugee community, and groups of Syrians started making trips to Turkey and other countries to help their families.
“One of the things that struck me when I heard about the idea was, ‘We’ve got a big, big family and we’re not going to go to Turkey,'” said Yafet, a 30-yearold Syrian who came from Damascus to the West Midlands with his family.
“So we’re going to stay in the UK and try to make the most of it.”
After they’d spent months in the West, the Syrian family moved to Turkey.
“My wife and I, we went from a city to a city, we got on a bus and got off