Sunday Star-Times


- Oceania News · New Zealand · United States of America · Aleppo · Wellington, New Zealand · Malaysia · Italy · Iran · Syria · Turkey · Donald Trump

Karam Shaar, 29, has fi­nally started to build a new life with his wife Hanna Habibi, 31, in New Zealand.

But only af­ter years of un­cer­tainty and sep­a­ra­tion from his fam­ily af­ter the Syr­ian civil war threw their lives into chaos.

He’d planned to visit his fa­ther in the US for the first time since the war broke out in 2012, but says the travel ban has pre­vented a re­union.

Born in Aleppo, Shaar says he planned to study abroad, then protest broke out against Bashar alAs­sad’s regime

He says it started out peace­fully, then one of his friends was ar­rested and threat­ened.

He wanted to leave by choice, but was forced to by ne­ces­sity, he adds from his liv­ing room in Welling­ton’s Karori. He fled to Malaysia with no plan. Study­ing to­wards a masters in eco­nomics, he lived with the un­cer­tainty of not know­ing where he could per­ma­nently set­tle.

He then re­ceived full schol­ar­ships to study in ei­ther Italy or New Zealand – he picked New Zealand. It took him six months to se­cure a visa. Shaar met his wife Hanna, who is from Iran, at univer­sity in Malaysia.

Hanna, who is also en­rolled in a PhD in eco­nomics, ar­rived in Welling­ton in April, 2016.

Shaar was granted asy­lum in New Zealand and the cou­ple have just ap­plied for per­ma­nent res­i­dence.

‘‘My ex­pe­ri­ence has been very lovely, truth be told,’’ says Shaar. ‘‘Peo­ple have been su­per sup­port­ive.’’ De­spite fac­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sures the cou­ple wouldn’t want to be any­where else.

‘‘I would call it home,’’ he adds. He does miss the warmth and com­mu­nity in Syria and says, New Zealan­ders can be very in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic. His main sad­ness is his sep­a­ra­tion from his fam­ily. ‘‘I miss my dad - I would love to see him.’’ The last time he saw his mother and sib­lings was at his wed­ding in Turkey in 2015.

But his fa­ther wasn’t able to leave the US to come to their wed­ding.

He’d planned to see his fa­ther this year, but with the stroke of a pen, Trump has thrown their re­union up in the air. ‘‘It’s very am­bigu­ous,’’ he says. Shaar doesn’t quite know if he’s im­pacted. ‘‘There is no so­lu­tion but to wait.’’


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