Born free and living safe
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.”
Samer Sirri with his wife Klarinate Shawaheen, daughter Perla and newborn son Noah.