When civil war broke out in Syria, Usama Nuraldin was a successful businessman raising a young family in Damascus. Now, he is a jobless refugee in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, one of a tiny handful of those forced to flee the brutal conflict to have made a new home in Central Asia.
“At first, it wasn’t a full-blown war, [but] after three or four months, life started changing,” the 35-year-old Damascene told EurasiaNet.org. “There were explosions and people killing each other every day. It was terrifying.”
The last straw came when rebel fighters burned down Nuraldin’s clothes shop after he refused to subscribe to their cause. “They started threatening us: ‘If you’re not with us, we’ll kill you or arrest you.’ Then I decided to come to Kazakhstan,” he said.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.