Local man fears for sister stranded in Syria - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Local man fears for sister stranded in Syria

L-R: Karim Shamsi-Basha and his mother Laila fear for Karim's sister, Mimi, who is still in Syria. Source: WBRC video L-R: Karim Shamsi-Basha and his mother Laila fear for Karim's sister, Mimi, who is still in Syria. Source: WBRC video
A family picture of Mimi and Karim. Source: WBRC video A family picture of Mimi and Karim. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

The violence in Syria is directly impacting one Homewood family.

Karim Shamsi-Basha is a U.S. citizen. He left Syria when he was 18-years-old to attend the University of Tennessee. His mother, Laila, and sister, Mimi, stayed behind but always came to visit Karim here in the United States.

Laila is here now in Homewood with her son after she was granted a visitor's visa. They thought Mimi would be granted the same visa, but she wasn't.

"I'm extremely worried," said Karim Shamsi-Basha.

They all had high hopes Mimi's visa would be approved since Laila and Mimi have come to visit Karim 20 times in the past.

The same day President Obama spoke out about the chemical weapons being used in Syria, Mimi was at an appointment at the American Embassy in Lebanon. Congressman Spencer Backus even wrote a letter on Karim's behalf.

"My constituent tells me his sister has visited the United States many times and each time has honored the terms of her agreement with the State Department. He says due to the circumstance in her country, she hopes to come to the United States and visit her family temporarily; she has no wish to abandon her permanent home in Syria," Backus wrote in a letter.

But the letter didn't matter.

"They still denied it," said Shamsi-Basha. "I had to break the news to my mom this morning and she fell apart. She fell on the floor. She was screaming because we don't know what's going to happen here."

FOX6 asked Karim how his mother and sister survived this long in Syria without being harmed. Laila answered in Arabic, and Karim translated.

"They live in a decent part of Damascus to where they have not yet been hit. And they are not leaving the house for anything, so they haven't been around too much," Shamsi-Basha said.

But if an airstrike comes, that change could the situation.

"What scares me the most if a strike takes place is the response. Syria has a good army, other than that you have Iran and these are not logical people. I don't know what would happen," Shamsi-Basha said.

For Laila, Mimi's visa will determine her future as well. She won't leave her daughter alone, and now has plans to return to the war zone.

"I'm nobody special, my sister is nobody special. My mom is very special, and just for her sake I wish somebody could do something that's all," Shamsi-Basha said.

And he has a plea for the President.

"I cannot believe I live in this country for one thing. The fact that my Congressman wrote a letter on my behalf makes me just want to cry. I would love to make an appeal to the President, please grant my sister a visa. Grant all the people that need a visa because the good people of Syria, there's no reason they are stuck in the middle of decisions made by people up above that they have nothing to do with," he said.

Laila says if an airstrike takes place, Damascus will be ruined. Shamsi-Basha says as they speak, children are probably hunkered down in basements fearing the worst.

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