Abu Farouq is 29-years old and is from a village near Tartous. He did not finish middle school. He comes from a family of farmers, and had a small village restaurant. He is now living in Marseille with his wife and two-and-a-half year-old child.
He says refused to join the army and was imprisoned for two months. There were trumped-up charges of theft and rape, and after 3 days of torture he fingerprint signed a document confirming his own account, he says. However, he was blindfolded and did not see what he was signing. His parents sold land to pay off the interrogators and get the prison officials to release him, and to regime smugglers to get him through blockades and to Lebanon. There he registered as a political refugee with a human rights organization. He was then arrested again, this time for illegal entry when he was caught at a Lebanese army checkpoint. He was imprisoned for 1.5 months. His wife followed him to Lebanon with their baby, and made contacts trying to get him out.
Meanwhile a French couple from Marseille, who worked as doctors at the same human rights organization where Abu Farouq’s case was registered, “adopted” his family. After his release, the organization helped them obtain visas from the French embassy. His family flew to Marseille airport where the French family met them. They lived in the doctors’ home for 5 months and were warmly welcomed as part of the family. Abu Farouq’s family had their own room and bathroom and full access to the house and kitchen. The household ate meals together and Farouq’s family was included in weekend outings. The couple worked long hours and asked another French family, their close friends, to help Farouq and his wife with paperwork, language classes, and practical matters of every kind. In fact, these two families had many friends who also befriended the Syrian refugee family. They felt supported, loved, trusted and grateful for the “miracle” of their luck and the family’s infinite generosity. Family friends also opened up their homes and took Farouq’s family to the beach and on other outings as well. Quite a number of family friends gave him access to tend to their gardens as he had grown up working on his family’s land.
When it was time for the couple’s children to visit during the summer, they held a large fund-raiser party for all friends in the medical field and each guest contributed 5 euros a month for a year to pay for Farouq’s family to rent an apartment nearby for a year. Now, the French government pays 80% of the rent, and with their government monthly living allowance they pay the other 20%.
About his host family, Abu Farouq says: “They went to work for long hours every day, from the first day of our arrival, and they trusted us with their valuables in a beautiful home, and with their younger children. I have the keys of 3 different homes. We stayed in their friends’ home while they were on vacation and I opened their doors to tend their gardens. They all insisted that we should feel free to come over should we need anything at all.” He and his wife feel blessed and say they are truly one family, and their hosts cried when Abu Farouq’s family moved to an apartment. They still all get together for meals, and with their friends too, and everyone is attached to their little boy and asks to see him regularly.
Abu Farouk is taking language classes and once he is finished it is his wife’s turn. He does not wish to go back to school but to work as a gardener. He is also thinking of moving to Belfort for a contract-job with relatives living there. Abu Farouk also made friends in language classes, some Syrians and international people. He says he was taught in school that the French were colonizers but from this magnificent experience of adoption and love, he sees individual French people that do not correspond to anything he learned.