‘Keep the hope alive’: Sending a message through song to businessman who was deported

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — It has been more than three months since a Youngstown businessman was deported to his native Jordan. But the fight to bring him back to the United States is not over.

Tom Manche lives in Nashville, Tennessee, but grew up in Youngstown. Monday night, he performed a mini concert at the Downtown Circle.

It was in honor of the family of 57-year-old Amer “Al” Othman, who was deported to Jordan in January.

“I’m not gonna get Al back in this country. I mean I have no power, but I thought the right song might call some attention to it and at the very least would send it to him and give him a little moral support,” Manche said.

Downtown Circle is the convenience store and Hookah Bar that Al has owned. Tom was in town for his mother’s birthday and said he wanted to do something for the family.

“To keep the hope alive, to keep his name in the news and hopefully we can keep fighting to get him back,” said Othman’s wife, Fidaa Musleh.

Since her husband was deported, Musleh has been travelling back and forth from Youngstown to Jordan. Al moved to the U.S. from Jordan when he was 19, obtaining a green card through his first wife. He was unable to get a new green card, after authorities claimed his first marriage was fraudulent. He and Fidaa have been married for 30 years.

“I’m sad that my husband is there and we’re here and the family’s broken up,” said Musleh.

The family’s daughters run the business, but they say the last few months without him have been tough.

“He misses the girls; he misses his community. This is his hometown, Youngstown, he loves Youngstown; he loves the people here,” said his wife.

The family speaks with Al every day. In fact, they contacted him at the beginning of Tom’s show.

“It’s something that brings attention and will never die and will stay going,” he said through a video cell phone connection.

Al said he’s glad that Youngstown has not forgotten him.

“We’re gonna keep fighting. I don’t know when or how, but we’re gonna keep fighting and trying to get him back,” said Musleh.

Tom Manche also wrote a song specifically for Amer, titled “Welcome Home.”

His wife says Al spends his time in Jordan with his 92-year-old mother and visiting his brothers and sisters. He is still hoping to be reunited with his wife and children in Youngstown.

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