Mother and kids journey from Syria to Logan
IT HAS been four years since Rima Flihan saw the country of her birth, the familiar streets that tied her neighbourhood together and the smiling faces of her countrymen as they went about the business of living.
Ms Flihan is one of the millions of Syrians forced out of their homeland.
Today she calls Logan home. The 39-year-old Syrian human rights activist and her two children arrived in Logan a year ago as refugees.
Prior to that she lived in exile in Jordan. She fled Syria in September 2011 after information the government had issued a second warrant for her arrest reached her.
As a passionate human rights activist and participant in the Syrian uprising, Ms Flihan soon became a target for the regime's security forces.
"I was arrested and held for four days, I was also beaten in my home," Ms Flihan said.
Demonstrations against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in early 2011. But the peaceful demonstrations were supplanted by an armed insurgency in 2012.
"The peaceful uprising lasted for an entire year. The Syrian regime confronted it with violence and directed its security forces and the so-called Shabiha militias to confront defenceless people, leaving behind hundreds of Syrian victims and thousands of detainees," MsFlihan said.
In response the Free Syrian Army was established by a group of defected Syrian Armed Forces officers and soldiers. It defined "all Syrian security forces attacking civilians" as its enemies and said its goal was to topple the regime.
Despite knowing the price of dissent, Ms Flihan said it had been difficult to leave her country.
Under the cover of night, Ms Flihan was driven by friends to the Jordanian border. She had sent her children, then aged 13 and 14, out of the country legally before crossing illegally into Jordan herself.
"When I got to the top of the hill that separates Syria and Jordan I had an anxiety attack," she said.
"Part of me wanted to stay in Syria, I did not want to leave my country."
In Jordan Ms Flihan joined the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, commonly known as the Syrian National Coalition.
She was also a member of the delegation to the Geneva Conference on Syria in 2013.
"All this time in Jordan I held out hope the regime would end and the day would come that we could return home," she said.
"I never ever thought that one day I would be a refugee.
"It isn't something anyone would ever choose."
But the violence in Syria just escalated.
"This opened the door for extremist groups to come into Syria to pursue their own agenda," Ms Flihan said.
In Jordan she received threats from extremist groups and the regime. Realising she and her children were still not safe, she sought asylum in Australia.
"I am so appreciative to Australia for welcoming us and giving us protection from Isis and the regime," Ms Flihan said.
"Everyone has the right to live and be happy, all children have the right to love and laugh and play.
"Being displaced is a very difficult experience.
"I would like to say to all Australians, please welcome and support these people from Syria who have lost everything and are coming here to start over. I would also like to say thank you."