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Australian School Welcomes Assyrian Families Fleeing Conflict in Syria, Iraq
By Jessica Longbottom

The Samtar family came to Australia as part of the special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees. ( Jessica Longbottom/ABC News)
When Naseem Samtar received a phone call from people threatening to kill him if he did not convert to Islam and pay a monthly fee to the Islamic State group, he knew it was time to flee.

The high school teacher, from Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq, still has the voice recording of the chilling message left by a group of his former students.

"It's really hard ... I couldn't believe that this thing happened," he said with the help of a translator.

"I taught them to be respectful, honest ... to do good in the world. And yet they come back and do this."

With 16 people crammed in the one car, Mr Samtar and his extended family made the journey to the Iraqi city of Erbil.

He, his mother, wife and three children then fled to Jordan in 2014, before arriving in Australia in June this year.

The Samtar family are part of the special intake of 12,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria announced in September 2015 that are now arriving steadily in Australia.

Mr Samtar's two sons attend St Dominic's Primary School at Broadmeadows, in Melbourne's north, where 20 new students fleeing conflict started school this year.

All of the students are from Christian families -- 14 from Iraq and six from Syria.

Isho Aodisho (back left) believes he was targeted in Syria because of his Christian faith. ( Jessica Longbottom/ABC News)

The school of 230 pupils is expecting more than 20 students from the countries to enrol in 2017.

"The impact of trauma of the most recently arrived is quite extensive."

Mr Samtar said Australia was a good place and the school was "very nice".

"They offer us all the help they can," he said.

Nesrin Yasdin (second from right) is worried for those still in Syria. ( Jessica Longbottom/ABC News)

Truck driver Isho Aodisho said he was riding his motorbike in the town of Al Hasaka in Syria when he was deliberately rammed and almost killed.

He made what he thought would be his last phone call to his wife.

"Please look after the kids, take care of them," Dalida Aodisho recalls her husband saying.

Mr Aodisho does not know why he was targeted, but believes it was because of his Christian faith.

"At that time, you didn't know who was your friend and who was your enemy," he said.

After undergoing two operations, Mr Aodisho fled to Lebanon with his family in 2013.

They arrived in Australia in October and two of the couple's four daughters attend St Dominic's.

The memories are still raw for Nesrin Yasdin, who arrived in Australia with her husband, Joseph Tshado, and children, Ronny and Jezil, in September.

She cried when she was asked about the current situation in Syria and the future of the country.

The family fled Syria in 2012 after terrorist group Jamaat Islamiah began kidnapping Christians in their town of Tell Tamer, near the Turkish border.

They lived in Lebanon for four years before their refugee applications were accepted by Australia.

The couple's son, Ronny, started prep at St Dominic's two months ago and their daughter Jezil will start next year.

Mr Tshado and Ms Yasdin lit up when they were asked about their time in Australia.

"It's good," they said through a translator.

They plan to study English from next year and find work.


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