Born free and liv­ing safe

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - CHARLES MI­RANDA

FOUR years ago, Samer Sirri and his wife Klar­i­nate made a prom­ise to their daugh­ter Perla that if they were ever again able to set­tle down and live in peace, they would give her a baby brother.

The prospect seemed re­mote for the young fam­ily forced to flee as refugees from war-rav­aged Syria and then live in Le­banon un­der the con­stant threat of ar­rest and de­por­ta­tion or worse.

The fam­ily moved from vil­lage to vil­lage to es­cape the vi­o­lence as the con­flict in Syria evolved but, as a doc­tor, Samer was a valu­able com­mod­ity that both sides wanted on their side to treat their wounded.

But this week they de­liv­ered on their prom­ise, with the birth of baby Noah, be­lieved by au­thor­i­ties to be the first baby to be con­ceived in Aus­tralia from one of the fam­i­lies re­set­tled here un­der the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s 12,000 emer­gency hu­man­i­tar­ian places pro­gram.

As he gur­gles in his mother’s arms, in the back­yard of their cot­tage in Pen­rith, Noah will never know the hor­rors his big sis­ter, now six, and their par­ents have seen.

To­day Samer, 37, a suc­cess­ful sur­geon in Da­m­as­cus be­fore the war, shakes his head and smiles broadly at his fam­ily and their small gar­den sur­rounds.

“This is just like a dream,” he said. “Our only daugh­ter asked this, ‘I need a baby brother, I am lonely’.

“She suf­fered a lot and we would move a lot and I promised her ‘when we are set­tled, when we set­tle down we will try and get you a brother’.

“It was hard for her. We had no life, we were never safe and she would have night­mares, she would hear fire­works and think they were bombs and hide un­der the blan­kets. But no more.”

The fam­ily moved to Aus­tralia in Au­gust last year but Samer has al­ready passed his driv­ers’ li­cence and more crit­i­cally the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal Coun­cil’s first set of ex­ams to re­qual­ify as a doc­tor in Aus­tralia.

He al­ready has two job of­fer place­ments to work as a hos­pi­tal emer­gency ward GP in rural South Aus­tralia and Tas­ma­nia and is con­sid­er­ing their next move.

But in the mean­time the fam­ily is just en­joy­ing their new free­doms.

“You feel like a hu­man be­ing, you will live like a hu­man be­ing, like oth­ers,” he said. “Every­one treats you fairly, you are not be­ing treated with dis­crim­i­na­tion as a refugee or any­thing like that. Peo­ple here (Pen­rith) have been so kind to us. We are so lucky, our neigh­bours helped us a lot.”

Pic­ture: Sam Ruttyn

Samer Sirri with his wife Klar­i­nate Shawa­heen, daugh­ter Perla and new­born son Noah.

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