He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of notebook paper.
Nearly four dozen names were written in neat, careful script.
Names of relatives, kin.
Names of the dead.
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The young man has cousins on the list, his grandmother — all killed in Syria’s civil war, which has claimed thousands and displaced millions since 2011.
He’s lucky he’s not on the list himself.
Mohsin, 28, left Syria in 2009, traveling to Thailand in search of work.
When the fighting broke out, when his family was swept up in the violence, he was far away — unable to get home, with no way to help.
He’s far away still.
Mohsin — that’s not his real name as the Herald agreed not to identify him because of his fear that speaking out could put his relatives in Syria in danger — is in the U.S. as a refugee.
He has resettled in the Tri-Cities with help from the nonprofit World Relief.
He said he’s grateful to be safe, to have a chance at a brighter future, although he misses his family and hopes to be reunited with them one day.
As Mohsin begins his new life, a debate rages over whether people like him should be welcomed into the country.
More than two dozen U.S. governors have said they want to block Syrian refugees from settling in their states over security concerns.
Meanwhile, President Obama has said shutting the door to the refugees would betray the country’s values.
In a Nov. 20 opinion piece in The New York Times, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wrote that “the American character is being tested” and he’s always seen the U.S. as a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution and other horrors.
The local World Relief office resettles about 225 refugees from different countries in the Tri-Cities each year. The group arranges housing, helps the refugees find work and provides other aid.
It’s helped two Syrian refugees in 2015.
Mohsin is from the southwestern city of Daraa, near the Jordan border.
In the spring of 2011, protests sprung up against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the government violently cracked down.
The brutal, complex civil war began.
Mohsin watched from Thailand, where he was working in a restaurant, as his country erupted into chaos.
Streets were wrecked.
His family home was destroyed.
At one point, a government fighter shot his 85-year-old grandmother, he said.
“Two shots in her arm, two shots in her mouth, until it’s broken,” he said, speaking Arabic through an interpreter.
He told of civilians being shot by snipers. Of bombings.
Of mass graves.
“His heart, his mind is thinking about his family,” the interpreter said as Mohsin spoke.
“If he had a warm meal, he was wondering if his family (had enough). He wasn’t able to eat or drink.”
Four of his sisters now are refugees in Jordan.
Two other sisters, his brother and his parents are still in Syria.
Mohsin started the long process of being admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 2012, arriving here this past August.
It’s an adjustment.
He speaks little English. He is alone, although he has help from World Relief and friends at the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities.
He told his story at the West Richland center recently, with imam Mohamed Elsehmawy interpreting.
Mohsin showed a picture of the street where he lived, now destroyed.
He showed a picture of his grandmother, before she died.
He pulled out the list of names.
He talked about the way Syria once was. He talked about the generosity of its people.
When Iraqis and Lebanese were fleeing war in their countries, Syrians opened up their homes, he said.
He talked about his family.
About his hope for his new life.
“He would like to live safe and have a good future,” Elsehmawy said as Mohsin spoke, “and (he wants) to meet his family and sit with them in one place.”
How to help
The nonprofit World Relief aids refugees who are fleeing persecution.
The Tri-City community does a great deal to help those who are making a new life here, contributing donations and volunteering, said Scott Michael, field office director.
“We’re grateful for the community. The outpouring of support to help refugees — we’re just so grateful,” he said.
The organization can always use financial donations, as well as items from blankets to pots and pans, he said.
For more information on how to help, go to www.worldrelieftricities.org. The office is closed until Jan. 4.