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An Improv Wedding for a Syrian Refugee Couple in Canada

A community came together to recreate a moment the couple lost when they left their home country.

Mohamad Al-Noury and Athar Farroukh fled Syria 10 days after they got married. Their wedding was a hasty affair, one they planned quickly so that they could escape the bombings.

Last year, they found themselves in Saskatoon, a large city in central Canada that sits on the South Saskatchewan River. They had left their families behind in the Lebanese refugee camps, where they’d spent some time. They also left behind what few wedding photos they had.

When Eman Bare, a news reporter with the CBC who was interviewing the couple about refugees suffering from PTSD, heard their story, she offered to help them retake their photos. They were ecstatic about the idea. Bare put out a call on her Facebook page: “Hey Saskatoon friends!” she wrote. “Anyone want to get together for an improv wedding tomorrow? Yes I'm serious!”

“I had intended on getting a few of my friends together for a bride/groom photo shoot,” Bare tells GOOD. “I was picturing something really small … maybe like 10 people and some tea.”

But the response to her Facebook post was overwhelming. Before the end of the day, they had a banquet hall, donated by a local hotel, and someone had offered up their old wedding dress for the cause. They even had a cake. Dozens of people packed the room, offering food, music, and a traditional Levantine folk dance called dabke.

Someone let Farroukh borrow a dress for the surprise wedding.

“Seeing the bride's face when she walked down the stairs made the hectic day so worth it,” says Bare. “They thought we were just taking photos … but they instead were introduced to a community that was so excited to welcome them.”

Canada has been a welcoming place for refugees fleeing the four-year-long conflict in Syria, an ongoing tragedy that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and ruined entire cities. Over 3,000 Syrian refugees have already arrived on Canadian soil, and the government promises to make accommodations for an additional 25,000 (compare this to the reactions of 31 U.S. governors, who tried to bar Syrian refugees from settling in their states). Just this week, Toronto Pearson Airport opened a temporary terminal dedicated to weloming Syrian refugees.

These compassionate gestures have made Canada a haven for those fleeing war. Al-Noury and Farroukh are hoping they can one day bring the rest of their family to their new home. Al-Noury’s parents applied for refugee status with the United Nations, but their papers were rejected. They remain at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

“He says the papers were rejected only because the U.N. couldn't find their folders,” says Bare. “Both his parents have heart problems, and he's worried about seeing them again.”

He sent his family photos of their redo wedding on WhatsApp, a messaging app.

“He said his mother couldn't stop crying,” Bare says.

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