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March 12, 2023

Syrian refugees find success after twelve years of conflict — see them then and now

March 15, 2023 marks twelve years of conflict in Syria. Over the last twelve years, millions of people have been forced to flee, leaving behind their homes, belongings and many of their loved ones and having to start completely anew.

There are many challenges that come with starting a new life in a new country — including language barriers, cultural differences and difficulties finding work. But that has not stopped resilient Syrians from building bright, hopeful futures for themselves and their families.

Meet five Syrians who lost so much when they fled, but today they are thriving in their new homes and careers.


Sarya, from Syrian refugee to software engineer

Sarya broken-heartedly fled from Syria to Jordan in 2012. She left behind everything she knew, including her upbringing, her home, her belongings and her career. “Life was hard,” she explains. “I couldn't work legally and had no rights.”

However, thanks to support from Talent Beyond Boundaries, Sarya was able to secure a job as a software engineer in Australia. She and her family will soon be relocating to Australia on the work visa she received.

“This is like a bright hope in the dark. We can start dreaming again," says Sarya.


Maya, from Syrian refugee to pilot

“Education is a tool in which I believe we can use to change the world! Without my education, I would never have been able to become a pilot or an engineer.”

Maya Ghazal lived in Syria for 15 years and even though it was dangerous to go to school, she hardly missed a day. In 2015, when she was 16 years old, Maya fled Damascus and started a new life in the United Kingdom under a family reunification program. In the UK, she was judged based on her nationality, rather than her potential, and she struggled to continue her education. She was unable to speak the language, so she taught herself English and overcame numerous barriers to secure a place in school and restart her interrupted studies.

At the age of 21, Maya fulfilled her dream of becoming the first female Syrian refugee pilot, and today she is a pilot, engineer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador who shares her story to show others that anything is possible.


Azab, from Syrian refugee to pharmacist

Growing up in Syria, Azab always dreamed of becoming a pediatrician. But when she was forced to flee, she was unsure if her dreams would ever come to fruition.

In 2016, Azab was resettled to Germany, where she began training as a pharmaceutical technical assistant. She says that it was always important for her to help people. Now, thanks to a lot of hard work and dedication and after several internships in the field, Azab works in a pharmacy in the German city of Jena.

She is considering going back to school to further her education and her career in medicine. For Azab, the possibilities are now endless.


Esraa, from Syrian refugee to web developer

“There is a stereotype that computer science is for men, this put me off in the beginning, but soon I realized there is an art to creating something from scratch.” 

After fleeing from conflict in Syria, Esraa was unsure if she would be able to continue her education in Jordan. But she was determined to get her degree in computer science, so she worked hard to achieve this dream.

Today, Esraa works as a successful web developer and freelancer, creating websites from scratch for small businesses in Jordan and around the world.


Yusra, from Syrian refugee to Olympian to Netflix star

In August 2015, when she was just 17 years old, Yusra Mardini and her sister, Sarah, fled the war in Syria. They traveled to Lebanon, then Turkey, then paid smugglers to take them across the sea to Greece. Their small boat to Greece was built to carry six people but was overloaded with 18. Its engine failed after half an hour and the Mardini sisters jumped into the water and pushed the boat for three hours until they reached the Greek island of Lesvos.

But Greece was not the final stop in their journey to safety. The sisters spent their first winter as refugees living in a tent with six other Syrians in a refugee camp near Berlin. They discovered new hope when they were put in touch with a local swimming club and Yusra received a training scholarship from the International Olympic Committee.

Yusra was selected to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team and later competed on the team a second time at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Today, Yusra is a student at the University of Southern California and serves as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Her incredible story is told in her memoirButterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph’ and in the Netflix film The Swimmers, which was released in November 2022.

How you can support Syrian refugees on their road to success

You can support Syrian refugees as they escape conflict and rebuild their lives in new cities and countries by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor. Your donation will help those who have been living in fear and exile for the last twelve years regain hope for the future.