Syrian Conflict Hits Home for Some Las Vegas Residents

LAS VEGAS - The mosque of the Islamic Society in Las Vegas was empty Saturday. On Fridays, however, the prayer hall is packed with people, and its shoe rack is filled with footwear. "We like to take off our shoes, because when we pray, we actually pray straight on the ground," said Mohamad

Deyaa Dabbagh, a Syrian-American living in Las Vegas. Although the Islamic Society promotes community and openness, Deyaa Dabbagh says few are talking about one hot-button topic: the possibility of a U.S. strike on Syria.

"That's sort of stayed away from in the mosque, because we don't want to get political and stuff, because it is a fairly political issue," he said. Syrians are split on their feelings about it, and it could spark heated debate among members.

For the past two years since Syria erupted in civil war, Syrian-Americans like Deyaa Dabbagh have kept their families in their prayers.

"Some are in Kyrgyzstan. Some are in Turkey and Iraq and all over," he said.

Many Syrian-Americans have also fled to the United States. Egyptian Immigration Center in Los Angeles founder Nabil Daladi says other conflicts have sparked immediate immigration. Approximately 5,000 Egyptians per year were immigrating to the United States two years ago. Since the Arab Spring in 2011 and recent violence in Egypt, Egyptians are now coming to the United States at a rate of 2,000 to 4,000 per month.

Daladi says Syrians are following this pattern, but they have a lot of work to do to get here.

"There are a lot more Syrians coming, but the embassy has almost shut them down," Daladi said. "So, they have to go to Turkey or Lebanon to get their visa." He says once here, they are often granted asylum, get green cards and given the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.

Deyaa's father did that for his family. "I don't remember much. It was always fairly isolated, because the town we lived in was secular. There was some government involvement. We would see corruption," he said.

People who move to the United States from the Middle East often do not return to their home countries, even if the conflicts cease.


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