Detroit area man who fled Syria shares his story

In a long struggle for the Syrian people, millions have fled the country. Millions more have seen their homes and towns destroyed.

One local man who fled the country years ago is sharing his story.

"We think the United States can do more," said Shadi Martini.

Martini once lived as a prominent hospital manager, with a wife and two kids in Syria. But that all changed four years ago, when he began treating college students shot by the Syrian government while protesting for their rights.

"What we did was one of the highest risk jobs that you could do in Syria, if you want to help the wounded," he said. "Because the government targeted us. They didn't want any help to be given to the wounded. So one of my friends was caught and we didn't know for three months what happened to him."

Martini’s physician friend was among many taken captive and tortured. He escaped with Martini's help, telling him what happened.

"(He said) 'They took me, hung me on the walls, so you can't touch the ground and then they start putting electricity into me,'" Martini said, continuing "'and they took me back down, put me in a barrel of water, back in the electricity, beating me.'

"I said did they ask you anything, he said no."

Martini his family and four million others have fled Syria since the unrest began in 2011. At least 250,000 people have been killed and half of the country's population is internally displaced without homes.

"People are looking at Syrians like they are ISIS, and that's not true," he said. "Syrians are fighting ISIS."

Shadi describes himself as a simple family man turned activist, recently having a column published in the Wall Street Journal. He wants to break misconceptions and inspire people across the country to educate them and help.

"We're looking about the cost now, it's going to cost us a lot," he said. "But it is going to cost us much more in the future."

He says his people feel abandoned and until more people extend help, ISIS will be praying on the vulnerable.

"These children are being raised in schools that are controlled by extremists," he said. "They are not extremists, but if you leave a child in this environment for five or seven years, you were going to have tens of thousands of radicals on your hand."

About 1,500 Syrian refugees will be coming to the U.S. this year, but he homes metro Detroiters will offer additional help with medicine, education, and maybe even adoption.

"I love the ideas of freedom and liberty and freedom of speech, I always hope that someday it would come to Syria," Martini said. "But unfortunately the path to freedom is always a long and hard one; this is why people need to cherish it."
 

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