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Bridging the justice gap for Syrian refugees and immigrants

with Asma Baghdadi

March, 2024

Asma Baghdadi and Saleem Najjar co-founded SyrGo, an online platform that delivers civil and personal legal documents to refugees and immigrants residing outside Syria. Their journey began in 2019 when they encountered difficulties registering their marriage at the Syrian embassy in Jordan, which was overwhelmed with requests. Faced with the reality of a black market where lawyers charged exorbitant fees for getting documents certified within Syria, they recognized an urgent need for a solution.

With the support of HiiL, the couple launched SyrGo in 2022. In the past two years, the platform has delivered legal documents to 1274 people. The story of SyrGo and its founders is one of hope, innovation and resilience. As Asma spearheads SyrGo’s expansion, she delivers essential legal services to Syrian refugees and immigrants with commitment and compassion. By doing so, she has illustrated the potential of entrepreneurs in meeting the justice needs of refugees who have been displaced due to violent conflict in their homelands.

Syria has witnessed an armed conflict since 2011. As clashes continue to reverberate in the country, 5.2 million people have been forced to flee and take refuge in different parts of the world [1]. Far away from home, they are rebuilding their lives in host countries with resilience and optimism. To support the refugees and immigrants from Syria in their quest for a fresh start, Asma Baghdadi and Saleem Najjar, a dynamic couple, have launched SyrGo. Syrgo is an online platform that helps refugees and immigrants from Syria obtain their personal and legal documents by connecting them with trusted lawyers and service providers. 

To know more about the couple’s entrepreneurial journey, we sat down with Asma, who has taken over the reins of the start-up from her husband. Asma, 29 years old and a mother to a 2-year-old, empathises with the struggles refugees and immigrants face in getting simple legal services due to the long-enduring conflict in Syria. She is determined to help fellow Syrians find their feet and restart their lives. She told us about her journey of leaving her homeland and becoming an entrepreneur who wants to increase access to justice, all while building a family in a foreign country. 

Inspired by love and an entrepreneurial vision

‘’I met Saleem in 2019 through a mutual friend. He was living in Jordan at that time and I was based in Syria. We instantly hit it off and wanted to build a life together. That’s when I decided to move to Jordan, to be with him. As luck would have it, my father is an investor in Jordan. So I didn’t need a permit or visa to travel to Jordan. While in Jordan, I began working for the startup founded by Saleem. The startup connected artisans in the Middle East, who create handicrafts and tableware for businesses worldwide’’ ~ shares Asma cheerfully

While living in Amman, Jordan the couple visited the Syrian embassy thrice to register their marriage. But the embassy did not have the capacity to process the requests of all Syrians in the country. It dedicated one day in the week to providing civil documentation-related services, and if on that day the queue is too long, people have to come back again the next week. Because they were both occupied with full-time jobs, the time-consuming process and uncertainties associated seemed inconvenient.

A year later, the couple moved to Luxembourg. That’s when the Covid-19 pandemic began. Since the whole country had shut down all operations, including public administration, Asma’s residence permit was not delivered. Without the residence permit, she could not travel to the Syrian embassy in Brussels to register their marriage. Saleem, who had been living outside of Syria for several years by then, had faced similar struggles while renewing his passport in 2017. Back then, he contacted several lawyers based in Syria who could help him.

‘’We were having lunch in a cafe discussing our predicament when the idea of SyrGo struck us.’’ recalls Asma

Supporting Syrian refugees and immigrants

Having heard stories of their friends paying thousands of dollars in the black market, without a guarantee of receiving the document, Asma and Saleem were confident that a platform like SyrGo had massive potential to help the community. To validate their idea, they spoke to 300 Syrians about their legal and justice needs. 

Saleem, who has worked for several years in the entrepreneurship space, was familiar with HiiL’s work. Together with Asma, he applied in 2021 to HiiL’s Justice Accelerator programme which is an incubator for startups working on access to justice. A year later, they launched SyrGo. 

Clients can place an order for documents based on the list of documents given on the website. They also have the option of ordering an unlisted document. Thereafter, clients have to provide their details post which a representative from SyrGo will contact them. Then, SyrGo will forward the requirements of the client to a lawyer. The lawyer manages the legal processes of Syrian public institutions on behalf of the client. Orders can also be initiated via WhatsApp and payments to SyrGo can be made via Paypal, e-wallets or bank transfer. 

Speaking of her experience of being in HiiL’s cohort of startups, Asma says appreciatively,

’HiiL was very patient and supportive. They weren’t just interested in our numbers, or revenue model. They sincerely wanted SyrGo to be able to help Syrians who had been uprooted from their home country to have access to legal services’’.

Ensuring quality of services

SyrGo’s first client was the couple itself. Asma and Saleem registered their marriage in Syria through SyrGo. While doing that, they streamlined the process of connecting clients to lawyers, setting up a communication channel, agreed on a turnaround time for clients with the lawyers and service providers and so on. 

They established a network of 18 lawyers who have specialisations in family law, criminal law and civil law. They included lawyers based on references and their work experience. Asma and Saleem would also vet the interested lawyers before adding them to their network. They would give the interested lawyers an assignment to check the fees they charge and the turnaround time they offer. If they come across anyone who is not actively participating in the network, he or she is excluded from the network. 

Fostering trust and confidence among clients

In the first year of SyrGo’s establishment, the platform provided 5,000 free consultations. This helped build the trust of people and market the platform to the Syrian community. In the following year, the platform shifted its focus to publishing articles written by their network of lawyers. The articles provided legal information on marriage registration, birth registration, obtaining a passport and other civil documents. Since 2022, the platform has provided paid services to 1274 clients from Germany, the USA, Jordan, Canada, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon. 

Reflecting on the challenges in securing a client base, Asma shares,

Although SyrGo has secured a significant number of clients, getting people to trust the platform is one of the biggest challenges. We receive 10-15 messages inquiring about services every day, but only a few of them convert into a purchase.”

Expanding the startup’s offerings and establishing partnerships

In 2023, Asma took over the start-up’s operations and management as Saleem moved on to another opportunity. Since then, SyrGo joined the Accelerator programme of HiiL, this time as a start-up that needs support in the growth phase. It is also participating in Jusoor’s programme for Women in Business Leadership. With HiiL and Jusoor’s support, Asma is leading the development of SyrGo by adding features that allow customer relationship management, chatbot, translation and shipping services.

"Leading SyrGo while it expands its operations has been an exciting journey for me. I graduated with a degree in business management in Syria and worked at a consumer goods company and software development company for several years. I have also worked in entrepreneurship with Saleem while in Jordan. Now I get to shape Syrgo with my vision, which has been gratifying for me." ~ says Asma confidently.

As Asma leads the expansion of SyrGo’s offerings, she is simultaneously trying to establish partnerships with NGOs in Lebanon and Jordan to help those who cannot afford the services of the lawyers working with SyrGo. Her priority is making sure that young refugee families live a secure life in the host country. Especially children, who were born outside of Syria but are not eligible to take the nationality of the host country. If left unregistered, these children will become stateless after they turn 18. 

The compassionate entrepreneur has registered the marriages and children of six families at SyrGo’s expense, but to extend this service to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, she needs the support of other stakeholders.

Presence of an enabling environment for startups

"Amman has a thriving startup ecosystem. There are a lot of incubators and startups. A big chunk of the young population is interested in entrepreneurship. Saleem and I found it exciting and inspiring to live there. There were lots of opportunities to learn. Luxembourg also supports startups but you have to look harder to find the ecosystem players. And a majority of the people have jobs, only a few are interested in entrepreneurship." ~ says Asma when prompted to share about SyrGo’s headquarters.

Building a young family in a new country

While Asma is learning the ropes of leading a startup, she is also juggling the responsibilities of raising a toddler in a place far away from home. When prompted to share about her life in Luxembourg, she enthusiastically replies,

"Despite not being refugees, Luxembourg has provided us with a haven to raise our daughter and to build a family. Given that we don’t know how long it will take for Syria to stabilise, we are glad to have this opportunity. In Luxembourg, the overall public infrastructure in terms of roads, gardens, and creches makes it easy to raise a child. I send my daughter to a creche where she interacts with several other toddlers. The supervisors at the creche are very friendly and respectful of each family’s cultural practices and ask if they should interact with the child in a certain way. Plus, I like travelling and interacting with people from different cultures."

The story of SyrGo and its founders, Asma and Saleem, is one of hope, innovation and resilience. As Asma spearheads SyrGo’s expansion, she delivers essential legal services to Syrian refugees and immigrants with commitment and compassion. By doing so, she has illustrated the potential of entrepreneurs in meeting the justice needs of refugees who have been displaced due to violent conflict in their home countries. 


[1] UNHCR. Syria Situation. Accessed on March 2, 2024. URL:


This story was written by Manasi Nikam after interviewing Asma Baghdadi on February 14, 2023.

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