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Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
The Ferdous family take in the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
SHELTER NOT WALLS

Mayor Bill De Blasio wants you to see the life of Syrian refugees in New York

By Annalisa Merelli

It’s been days of xenophobia and un-American, anti-refugee talk. This is hardly fitting for a country that honors freedom—which, in the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941, ”means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them.”

So it’s particularly refreshing to see a politician change the conversation—as New York City’s mayor Bill De Blasio did on Dec. 7, by sharing a photo album on Facebook titled “Taking Refuge: Syria to NYC.” De Blasio has been outspoken about his willingness to welcome refugees to his city.

The album contains photos of the daily life of the Ferdous family, who fled the town of Latakia, Syria, in 2010 (when Abdullah, the father, arrived in the US) and 2012 (when he was joined by the mother, Eman, and their 3-year-old daughter, Souad), and were allowed into the US under temporary protected status—or, as refugees.

In 2013, Abdullah’s parents joined them in Brooklyn, and a year later Hassan, their son, was born. Abdullah works as an electrician, and the Ferdous family’s life is reassuringly normal—or as normal as it can be: Souad still suffers from trauma but attends counseling and school.

In their simplicity, these pictures channel perfectly the quiet beauty of compassion, and are evidence of the argument that providing shelter is an act far more powerful than building walls.

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Hassan Ferdous carries his grandson, also named Hassan, with Eman.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Souad and 2-year-old Hassan play on mobile devices as they sit together on the living room sofa.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Grandmother Souad, 58, prays in the window of her bedroom at the family’s apartment.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Abdullah Ferdous, who works as an electrician, changes a lighting fixture at a food market in Brooklyn.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Souad, 6, plays in the hallway of her family’s two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn while her mother and grandmother cook dinner for the family.