Loose Definition of Terrorism Upends a Syrian Asylum Seeker’s Life

But in early June, Mr. Ziadeh was informed that he would be denied political asylum in the United States. In a 12-page letter laying out the government’s “intent to deny” his asylum claim, Citizenship and Immigration Services explained that he had provided “material support” to Syrian groups that the government considered undesignated terrorist organizations.

Mr. Ziadeh said he was shocked. He and his wife, Susan Aljlelatie, have lived in the United States for 10 years on a series of temporary permits, the latest of which expires next spring. Their children were born here.

“Right now, I can’t even plan for the future. What will happen?” he said. “I have three American kids. I love, actually, the U.S. I visited all 50 states, even U.S. territories. I visited all the presidential libraries.”

Going back to Syria is not an option. The government there has a warrant out for his arrest; the Islamic State has him on a list of Syrians it wants dead.

At issue, specifically, is that Mr. Ziadeh organized a series of conferences from November 2012 to May 2013 to discuss a democratic transition in Syria.

Among those invited to the workshops, held in Istanbul, were self-described commanders in a loose confederation of rebel groups called the Free Syrian Army, as well as political leaders affiliated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Both groups are well known to the American government. For years, the Central Intelligence Agency and its counterparts in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries have provided some Free Syrian Army factions with salaries, arms and other supplies. The State Department has also provided aid.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s members also had key roles in the Syrian National Council, the political umbrella group that the United States supported.

Robert S. Ford, a former American ambassador to Syria, said in an email that the American government did not consider either of the groups…

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