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Mar 29, 2013 8:14 AM by Nathan O'Neal

Tucson family reunited after daughters caught in Syria's civil war

TUCSON - The two-year civil war in Syria that killed 70,000 people and made refugees of more than 1 million people, hit close to home for one family in Tucson.

The unrest has been particularly unsettling for the Rameed family, originally from Iraq, when they were separated from their two daughters for more than three years.

Since leaving their home and fleeing through Syria in 2010, the Rameed family has had a massive hole in their hearts since the separation -- but have never stopped fighting to be together again.

For the past three years, it was the rare moments when Nabil Rameed and his family got to enjoy brief conversations with his daughters Marwa and Essra, who were half a world away.

Like many others, Marwa and Essra fled through Syria more than a year ago, eventually escaping to nearby Jordan as they waited for approval to come to the U.S. to join their family.

Thursday night, a rush of relief and emotion overcame the family as they were finally reunited.

"I lived with my sister alone," Marwa said, "We feel there is no security in Jordan. It wasn't safe."

The two were brought to join their family in Tucson through the efforts of the International Rescue Committee, which is a humanitarian aid organization that helps refugees travel to the U.S. to rebuild their lives and helps them adjust to the new culture and community.

"They've worked hard to try to make sure that their daughters could get here and get out of harms way," said Aaron Grigg of the IRC in Tucson. "They've been in Syria and everybody knows that's been one of the most war-torn countries right now and it's been very scary for their family here."

For the Rameed family, Essra and Marwa's return put an end to a seemingly never-ending nightmare.

"All the time, I'm dreaming of my family," Essra recalled of the years separated from her family. "Now is like a dream."

Marwa is grateful to be surrounding by a loving family again.

"All the time I was just crying and feeling sad because there was no happiness for us," Marwa said.

Marwa and Essra's father, Nabil, put it simply and passionately.

"I am very happy," he said. "I don't believe it because I think my heart, it won't stop."

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