Sally Manla

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Peaceful Coexistence in the Diaspora,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Marseille, France
Production Team:
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Sally is 24-years old and is from a village near Tartous. Her husband was tortured and imprisoned for a year on two separate occasions in Syria. He fled to Lebanon and was there arrested by the Lebanese army at a checkpoint and imprisoned. He had registered his case with a human rights organization in Beirut just before his arrest. 4-months pregnant, Sally followed him to Lebanon and was smuggled under a bridge at the border. After his arrest, she followed up with the human rights organization to try and get him released and arrange for asylum in Europe. She did not want to give birth while he was in prison but ended up having the baby 10 days before Abu Farouq was released.

She had been in daily contact with the human rights organization and had become increasingly distraught. One French director took a personal interest in her case, gave Sally her private number and helped her family gain asylum in France. Sally and her family experienced the “miracle” of gaining the sponsorship and support of a French family in Marseille.  Sally had assumed there would be an apartment for them and when she was told they would live in the same house as the sponsor family, she was worried, not knowing if this would be an imposition and awkward, or whether the baby’s crying would wake them at night. She explained that when they arrived at Marseille airport, the family hugged them and kissed them, and treated them like family members and they continue to do so until this day.  The second family who took care of them (Fiona’s family) welcomed them similarly. She felt their love and solidarity took away much of strangeness and suffering they would otherwise have experienced.

She said this experience changed her completely. She feels open, and finds only the quality of people as human beings important, regardless of national origin, religion or colour. She adopts any practice that she finds is better like eating less meat and more salads, organizing her time rather than wasting it sitting around or looking at her phone. This way, she says, she gives more time and attention to her son. She finds it utterly remarkable how these French families trusted them with their homes, children and belongings, and offered them friendship before even knowing them. One of her ambitions, once she studies French, is to open her house to a refugee family to give to others what she herself was given. She feels strongly that it does not necessarily have to be a Syrian family but could be an African or Afghani family or one of any other nationality. “They lost everything, like us, and that is what is important.” Until this is possible, she says, her husband hears of newly arrived refugees and goes to welcome and help them with his time, knowledge and friendship.

She was a science major and wishes to continue her studies and become a pharmacist.