Meet A Syrian Refugee Whose American Dream Replaced His War-Torn Nightmare

"Are we still welcome here?"

Yassin Terou arrived in the United States from Syria in 2011 with little to his name. What he did have was the skill to prepare a delicious falafel and the determination to make it in a foreign land different from anything he'd ever known.

As a way to make a living and provide for his family, Terou created a job for himself by selling his falafel sandwiches outside of a mosque in Knoxville, Tenn., where his family settled.

"My small dream was to sell falafel and juices like we have it in Syria. This is my food," he explains in the short film Yassin Falafel. "And I want to give it with my love, with my style."

For a year or two, those tasty sandwiches were in high demand after prayer finished and soon led to a successful restaurant called Yassin's Falafel House with the help of one of the worshippers, who rated them as "some of the best (falafel) I've ever had."


The film Yassin Falafel was produced by Square — a financial services and merchant services aggregator, as well as mobile payment company based in San Francisco — as a way of "chronicling our remarkable sellers and their tireless pursuit of their dreams."

And Terou's dreams are clear: he needed to rebuild a life for him and his family, safe from the war-torn country they used to call home.

"Having a business will give you the chance to represent yourself," Terou says of the popular downtown eatery. "It's not only work. It's a message."

Another message his customers get can be found on the huge sign on the wall that reads, "Welcome, all sizes, all colors, all ages, all sexes, all cultures, all religions, all beliefs, all people, safe here at Yassin's Falafel House."

"Even the people who decided, oh, they don't like Muslims, they don't like refugees, they don't like immigrants. We have to change their ideas about it," Terou says. "And that's our job and it's our message."

The film is poignant in the wake of President Donald Trump's Muslim ban — which targets seven countries, including Syria — as the proud owner of Yassin's Falafel House sometimes feels his American dream slipping away.

"This last year has been hard on me and my family. Sometimes I don't sleep," Terou says about his long journey as a Syrian refugee-turned-small business owner. "What will happen to us? … Are we still welcome here?"

But he remains optimistic, adding, "If you believe in something you don't have to leave it and just go. I say, 'No.' We're going to keep the American dream going because this country is for everybody."

Check out Terou’s emotional story in the video below:


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.