NAME: tarik

OCCUPATION: UX REsearcher, Google

Origin: Born in the US, Raised in Syria

Years in the us: 5

Can you tell us your name and where you are originally from?

My name is Tarik. I was actually born here, but I lived most of my life in Syria. I grew up in Syria, and around middle school, I moved to Egypt. Then, in college, I spent two years in Egypt, then finally made the decision that I want to come here and continue my education here and live my life here as well.

Ethnicity wise, I'm American and Syrian. I own both passports as well. I'm not Egyptian, but I also identify as an Egyptian.  I get the best ideology from each culture. I like to credit Egypt for a lot of what I believe, and so do I in Syria. I like to think that I go the best of each culture and who makes me me today.

How long have you been in the states?

This is my fifth year actually. I went to UC Davis for two years, actually a year and a half, something like that, and then I moved here. Ever since then, I worked with Oracle in the user experience field before, and then now I'm continuing with Google as well, and I think that's been about three years where I've been living in Bay Area, in Silicon Valley specifically.

Cool. Tell me a bit about what it's been like working in  America and Silicon Valley.

My dad and mom right now currently live in Sacramento with my youngest brother. We're four brothers. The three oldest ones are Americans, and then the youngest one was born in Syria. He's not American, and my dad wanted to make sure that he can also get my youngest brother American citizenship because of all these events that are going on and because of all the potential dangers that you might experience.

Actually, part of living in Egypt, you have to renew your residency in terms of every five years or so, but the brother, who is Syrian, the Syrian Embassy refused to renew it because they wanted him to go into the Army. 

 

My dad and mom right now currently live in Sacramento with my youngest brother. We're four brothers. The three oldest ones are Americans, and then the youngest one was born in Syria.

 

Our only option at the moment was to make him American, and we did so by ... I was already in America, and I got my parents the green card, and of course, I went through the policies and everything and through the immigration department. The whole thing took over like two years, and I got my brother to apply through political asylum, so he's technically a political asylee while my parents have the green card, but all of them are here legally and lawfully and in the process of getting their citizenship.

I guess, this is some of the stuff I love about America, and I thought it was, throughout the whole, across America. It's what I really sometimes now I figure it's more like of a certain state's ideology rather than everyone's. It's acceptance for everyone. It's loving everybody like they're your own. America is super diverse, especially, especially San Francisco, and there's so much benefits in that, and I love San Francisco for that. I think we should celebrate our diversity.

So your parents have a business in Egypt but live here on green cards, and you have two American-born brothers who live in Egypt, and one brother who is a political asylee in the states -  do you worry about your family?

My mom, especially, always tells us that she just wishes all four of us are together at the same time, and she hasn't seen her kids all together in a while. She always complains to us about it and tells us that she just misses to have the whole family around. Now it just became increasingly more difficult, especially for my youngest brother who doesn't even have the green card yet. He's in the process of getting it, but because he's a political asylee, he's sort of almost ... America is a host to him. He does not have any sort of liberty moving around and everything. He's just a little kid that lived his life like us exactly, but the fact that he's Syrian puts him already at a disadvantage than his older brothers where he feels that he can't live his life like his brothers.

We've all graduated an American high school. We went to our senior trips. We've traveled the world. We've traveled globally and all that, and my brother just now is stuck with the fact that he has to live here. He doesn't have the liberty to do a lot of the stuff that his older brothers did and enjoyed so much and just the fact that a lot of his friends and a lot of his friends back home, the family, and everything, as much as he is attached to them, it's gone from his life. He can't do it. He has to stay in America because who knows. Once he's out, he's out. You never know whether he can come back.

I'm sure, as it has affected him very negatively, and he always speaks of how much he missed his friends, how much he misses his older brothers as well who he would like to see and who he could. The worst part about it is that we didn't really do anything outside of the legal realm. It's like we did everything legally by going to the court, talking to the judge, and the judge approved this, so there should be no problem for him to have the liberty to come back here. Unfortunately, now, it's a little bit harder, and he cannot do that.

My grandmother actually just recently came from Syria, finally, finally came to Egypt. My mom really wanted to see her, but now she can't go back, and so it's been a little bit problematic. It's extremely dissatisfying. We're not happy about it at all, and it's created a lot of problems in terms of just being able to be with your ... To have the basic rights that you're allowed, that show on papers that you're allowed to do, and now you're not just because of some executive order.

How do you manage to carry on a sort of normal life with all of this hanging over your head?

To be honest, we sort of live in a bubble here in California, and we see a lot of the support. It's truly inspiring, something like this happening right now. Most recently, I was also at Google where they held a demonstration for No Ban, No Wall. It's truly inspiring. You see that there's a lot of people supporting you. You're not in this on your own, and there's other people that understand where you're coming from. They understand that you have certain rights, and you shouldn't be treating this way, and this disrupts your life, but, at the same time, so that gets me through it a lot is that I truly believe in the good will of the American people. I truly believe that most people that have done their research have done their due diligence in the subject know what is right and what is wrong.

 

With everything going on with Syria, of course, I get where the fear can come from. Syria is super dangerous, all the war that's going on, but that doesn't mean Syrians are dangerous, and that doesn't mean normal civilians are dangerous. We did the due diligence in terms of the process. There are so many papers that we submitted, so many documents just to prove that my brother could stay here legally, and he's just an innocent little boy.

 

At the same time, just seeing from the news, seeing how certain people don't support certain aspects of those, or people, let's say, actually support the immigration policy, and it's very not encouraging people. Brushing you off as your whole people, where you came from, as a certain religion or as a certain way of person that is violent, that is detrimental to our society that I'm not the bad guy. There's this rhetoric that we're the other. We're the bad guy, and it truly isn't like that.

The other thing the I get, I'm not necessarily a practicing Muslim or anything, but I grew up as one, and I'm very detached from the religious side of it. I wouldn't call myself a good Muslim or anything like that, but the fact that I feel like it's an attack on it and the fact that somebody would even ask me that question is that how do you even know ... As an American, if I assumed anything, like I assumed you're a Christian because of how you look, that's outrageous. What if I'm an atheist? What if I'm agnostic? What if I'm whatever I want? The fact that there's this rhetoric against bad Arab Muslims and terrorists, radical Islam and all this. It's very ... What's the word? Disheartening.

I feel like you get painted by a brush, and if you look at me and my dad, who's not even American, we embody the American ideals, truly. I truly believe that, and I've grown up very liberal in terms of what I think about people around me and how I treat people around me, try to accept everyone, and this is way we came to America, and this was America too. It's not that this is not American. It's not that this doesn't happen, but based on recent political activities, it seems less likely. It seems like there was sort of hidden hate that's surfacing, and it kind of makes you feel unwanted, undesired, and unwelcome.

 

Even the statistics that were brought up, like zero people from those seven banned countries since 9/11 have done anything or anything like that, but just the rhetoric and the fear and the propaganda that's going around could eventually hurt us in ways that are unimaginable. It could destroy, potentially, my brother's future life in America, and not just in America because he can't go back to Egypt. He can't go back to Syria. It could destroy his life for the future.

 

Yeah, I can't even imagine. I don't want to take you to places that are too dark, but what are you worried about right now in terms of you and your family — what worries you about what's happening in politics right now?

My biggest fear actually is not how the current situation is. My biggest fear is what it could turn to. It could easily start off with, "Oh, we're banning people from this country from entering." It could easily turn into my younger brother, "We're deporting people from this country as well."

With everything going on with Syria, of course, I get where the fear can come from. Syria is super dangerous, all the war that's going on, but that doesn't mean Syrians are dangerous, and that doesn't mean normal civilians are dangerous. We did the due diligence in terms of the process. There are so many papers that we submitted, so many documents just to prove that my brother could stay here legally, and he's just an innocent little boy.

My fear, if then next, he becomes targeted, and it's like now people from these certain countries, we're not going to allow to convert into becoming ... We're not going to give them the green card. We're not going to give them the American citizenship. We're not going to give my parents the American citizenship, even though this is the one thing that I love about America more than anything is America is very laid out. There's rules. If you follow the rules, you should be completely fine.

The fear now is that what if that doesn't play into it? I see and I'm super inspired by all those federal judges saying, "No, you can't do that. This is unconstitutional." It sort of brings me back, oh yeah, see? That's what I tell my dad. Oh, don't worry. Not anything can happen. There are still rules. There is still some stuff that govern this.

My fear is that fear plays too much of a role into it, and as we've seen recently in history, it could play into it. People could lose, I guess, the sense in terms of they could lose the sense of ... They could abandon those laws and do something that's coming out of fear and not allow a certain person to stay here because of strictly fear, nothing else. Even the statistics that were brought up, like zero people from those seven banned countries since 9/11 have done anything or anything like that, but just the rhetoric and the fear and the propaganda that's going around could eventually hurt us in ways that are unimaginable. It could destroy, potentially, my brother's future life in America, and not just in America because he can't go back to Egypt. He can't go back to Syria. It could destroy his life for the future.

 

What I wish for them to know is me and my younger brother, who's not American, are as American as it gets. We're your neighbors. We're just like you. My brother is a Warriors fan. He's the biggest Steph Curry fan. He loves the 49ers. He loves America. He feels like he's American, and I definitely feel like he's one here. It's not like he's out of place. It's not like he's here and he doesn't belong here. He made a lot of friends. He's just like you and me.

 

It's definitely not a pleasant thought to think of, especially when it's your younger brother, and he's the youngest out of us, and we're all looking at him like he's got my full support. I thought, if I can make my brother American, then you know ... Which he legally can, but unfortunately, apparently, it's not that easy.

Yeah. I'm finding myself personally frustrated with this idea that ...  you're all a family. You all came from the same parents. You were raised by the same people. You probably have the same values, and yet, some of you are being treated completely differently based on seemingly frivolous stuff.

Yeah, exactly. It's just the fact that we were born here, and he wasn't. People have thought about this before, and they've made ways where you can make your siblings or parents American as well. It's not like this is completely a new concept, but the fact that you can see that being played into and maybe taken away from them, it's just ridiculous to me because there are processes set already for this kind of stuff.

It's just so unfair to him specifically because, again, like you said, we've all grown up with the same values, same exact culture, same everything. The fact that he doesn't get the rights as let's say I do because of the fact that I was born here, and he was not. It sort of already puts him at like a you're lesser than your brothers, but that's not really the fact. Of course, that's not how we feel, and that's not how anybody feels, but through, I guess, on paper, it makes it seem like that. It makes it seem like he has to suffer through this on his own and not with us. It's unfair, and it's definitely not ideal. It's definitely very hard on him and hard on all our family. That's mainly why my parents wanted to move here is to take that part out, and my brother can finally become American just like his brothers, and he gets the same liberties and opportunities as his brothers do.

There's a huge portion of the states that just doesn't understand what's going on around these policies and who it affects and whether it's good or bad. What do you wish those folks would know?

What I wish for them to know is me and my younger brother, who's not American, are as American as it gets. We're your neighbors. We're just like you. My brother is a Warriors fan. He's the biggest Steph Curry fan. He loves the 49ers. He loves America. He feels like he's American, and I definitely feel like he's one here. It's not like he's out of place. It's not like he's here and he doesn't belong here. He made a lot of friends. He's just like you and me. He's not like anything too weird, and I'm sorry. Weird is not the right word. I'm saying he's not that different from you and I.

I feel like a lot of people try to paint that picture that you're the other. You're the person that does this and that and that and that and all these generalizations that stick with you before you even get the chance to explain who you are as a person. I understand the back draws of the Middle Eastern culture, for example, or the back draws of yes, there's sexism. Yes, there is racism. Yes, there is all these negative stuff in the Middle East, but that's also here. That's everywhere in the world. There's people that are irrational and angry and all that all over the world, but there's also people that there's a lot of good. There's a lot of people that are very respectful of everybody else, very open to hearing new ideas, very open to become a better person and become very, I guess you could say, very ... Just to try to immerse themselves in a new culture, try to learn about it. I'm not saying lose your old culture, but you can also try to get the good form here and there.

You can be a person who celebrates his diversity. You can be a person who chooses to get the good from each culture and become a person. Whoever you are, and the worst part, is that's like I've been working on all this stuff for myself and my personal development, and I feel like I'm a good person in this and that and that, and then to have somebody paintbrush me because I'm Syrian that you're this. You're that. You're a terrorist.

 

I feel like a lot of people try to paint that picture that you're the other. You're the person that does this and that and that and that and all these generalizations that stick with you before you even get the chance to explain who you are as a person. I understand the back draws of the Middle Eastern culture, for example, or the back draws of yes, there's sexism. Yes, there is racism. Yes, there is all these negative stuff in the Middle East, but that's also here. That's everywhere in the world.

 

Even the most ridiculous one that I still hear is the idea that every Syrian is also a Muslim as well. Again, I am. I've been born one, but there's a lot of Christians, for example, who become atheists or Jews who become atheists or agnostic or Buddhist, or you could have no religion. You could have whatever. It's your choice as a person. Under no circumstances should you be just stereotyped into that one picture like "the guys we disagree with," everything. I'm just a regular person living my life and working here and just trying to ... I'm not anything special. I mean, I am kind of special but not that special.

I'm just a regular Joe in terms of I treat my life just like anybody that was growing up here, and I have the same struggles they do. I have fun the same way they do. We're not so different. I guess that's the message that I'm trying to get across is that I'm not different at all, and neither is my brother. It shouldn't be ... Even if I was slightly different and if I was ... Let's say I held on to some ideals or something that you weren't the biggest fan of or that ... We can have a disagreement. We can have a healthy argument that can lead to somewhere instead of dismissing people based on their nationality, I guess, most importantly.

Totally. Anything else you want to share?

I guess the last thing I want to share is that don't let the fear get to you. Just have an open heart, and I recently saw this about a person who has been hating all of Muslims after 9/11. He recently had a Syrian immigrant family moved in next to him, and he completely changed his mind after he met him. He was preaching in terms of how, if you actually know the person, then you cannot just hate them. If you don't know any people, then you just paint the picture in your head as those are the other people. This is like a sociological phenomenon is that you try to paint an image of we are a certain way, and those people are everything against us. You're automatically not looking into what makes us similar. You're just looking into what makes us different, and that's a very unhealthy way of thinking. It could lead to very bad consequences, as we've seen from history, and just in general.

I would like to tell people that, it's 2017. There's a lot of research that could be done from your phone right there and then for you to understand people. It's not difficult to invest a little bit to understand the situation and to act upon that, so I guess that would be my message to the people is that try to learn more about Syrians. Try to learn more about not even just Syrians, about the situation and how it can affect people. 

Maybe a year from now, I could be talking about how this is affecting, not just my family, but me personally as a Syrian-American. There's a slippery slope in that, and I would just like people to look into that sort of see it from a holistic point of view and not just from the fear point of view.

 

I'm just a regular Joe in terms of I treat my life just like anybody that was growing up here, and I have the same struggles they do. I have fun the same way they do. We're not so different.