Syrian Family Find Refuge From Civil War in Perth

Ibrahim Omeri and Suzan Robeh escaped the Syrian Civil War to raise their sons in a safer country.
Syrian Family Find Refuge From Civil War in Perth
Ibrahim Omeri and Suzan Robeh escaped the Syrian Civil War to raise their sons in a safer country.

Leaving behind history

IN 2011 when the Arab Spring protests reached Syria, the Omeri family didn’t know what to expect, nor how long it would last.

The archaeologists worked in Damascus, out in the field among the ruins Ibrahim Omeri had dedicated more than 25 years of his life to; but it had become too dangerous.

His wife Suzan Robeh was equally enthralled by the ancient structures, the stories they held and the deep connection they had to the city of Damascus, where the ruins stood throughout the streets.

The beginnings of the Syrian Civil War made city living impossible and the pair moved to a small farm, growing vegetables and continuing their work.

By 2014 the couple made the decision to leave for good, applying for a visa and moving to Perth three months later.

Today, not much is left of the life they once lived.

“My family is in Damascus, and Suzan’s family is north of there… these areas still belong to the (Assad) regime and it is safer,” Mr Omeri said.

“Many cities have disappeared; going back it would not be the same Syria we come from.

“Most of our friends have left… if I went back I don’t think I would find anyone… you can’t go back to a destroyed stone-aged country.”

Mr Omeri said the couple chose to leave for Australia, to make a life somewhere safe.

“We left everything; our house our land, we left our families and we resigned from our work,” he said.

Coming to Australia

Bringing just their sons Adon (6) and Aram (5) and the eight books written between them, the family arrived in Perth, which in Ms Robeh’s opinion, is the happiest place on earth.

“In Syria I watched MasterChef Australia, I feel like I saw all of Australia through that program, it was beautiful,” she said.

“One day they showed a school and you could see the multicultural (students) and they looked so happy and I just wanted to see my children there.

“It’s difficult to find a place anywhere in the world where anyone from around the world can feel happy… I’m talking about community.”

Ms Robeh said she yearned for the history and the old buildings of Syria, each with stories going back thousands of years.

“I really miss the feeling of history in Damascus; you walk in the streets and see old houses and see thousands of stories, buildings have novels of their lives, but here it is new, beautiful but new,” she said.

“The first time we went to Fremantle I loved the old buildings, I left part of me there it is so beautiful and I feel the emotion in the buildings.”

Now living in Willetton, the couple settled their sons in school but looked to expand in to something for themselves.

Rebuilding a future

Perth, devoid of ruins and archaeological points of interest, piqued a dormant passion for furniture design in the couple.

Inspired after seeing wood dumped on the side of the street, the couple began building and designing contemporary pieces for the home.

Wood, a high commodity in Syria, where it is not freely available, is the predominant material mixed with steel and glass.

“We saw this wood on the side of the road and in Syria there is no wood, it was hard to watch it thrown away and turned to mulch so we felt we had to make something,” Mr Omeri said.

Ms Robeh said her love of interior design led her to becoming deeply involved in each piece of furniture, each named after an archaeological site in Syria.

“We have taken it, reshaped it and given it back to the community as art,” she said.

“Some people describe it as retro, or industrial but I consider it contemporary and it is a mix of different styles.”

The company, Outlook Decor, work from a warehouse in Como where the couple design and hand build the works.

The couple now have a collection of 40 pieces.

“I feel like our pieces will be liked by women and men, they are each some of me and some of (Ibrahim) so couples will all like it,” Ms Robeh said.

“We are doing this because we already lost something very precious to us, so we want to do something we love, something that expresses us.”

To view the works go to their website.