International Rescue Committee (IRC)

My brother’s love for Iraq

Zaineb* is a program specialist with the International Rescue Committee in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she assists Iraqis who have been granted sanctuary by the United States.  Zaineb worked for American and British nonprofit organizations for four years in Iraq before she was invited to come to the U.S. as a refugee in November 2007. She joined the IRC in December 2007. 


My younger brother Ahmed was killed because he loved Iraq and wanted to work for peace.  
 
Ahmed was a top student at Baghdad University, where he majored in English and was studying to be an interpreter.  He planned to continue his studies by working for a PhD in conflict resolution.  He was a nice guy and cared about the future of Iraq. 
 
Ahmed was so happy about the fall of Saddam Hussein and his regime on April 9, 2003.  Our whole family was happy.  We had suffered under Saddam because we were independent—in fact, two of my uncles were killed because they refused to join Saddam’s Baath Party.  
 
I remember the mood of celebration in our city in southern Iraq when Saddam fell.  U.S. troops were invited into Iraqi homes for meals—a friend of my father even slaughtered his sheep for the American guests.  Mosques, too, welcomed the Americans.  Imams would tell their congregations, “Please do not hurt the American troops. They came here to help us.”  
 
Ahmed went to work as an interpreter for the U.S. army. He traveled with a unit that assessed war damage and determined what needed to be rebuilt  When the Americans came, everyone wanted to work with them. There were lots of openings. Under Saddam, many Iraqis did not have jobs. 
 
I became an interpreter and office manager for the American Refugee Committee, which helped Iraqis who had been persecuted by Saddam’s regime to return from exile in Iran.  When that job ended, I joined the Research Triangle Institute as team leader for a democracy-building project.  
 
Then Muqtada al-Sadr,  the Shiite cleric and anti-American militia leader, gained power in our area.  His militia began targeting  Americans and declared that all Iraqis who worked with Americans were traitors. 
 
Ahmed and I were both in danger. 
 
My brother was so brave.  He refused to cover his face while interpreting. He was not ashamed of working for the Americans. Why should he hide, he would say? 
 
Ahmed took a new job with the American Coalition Authority.  Later, in 2004, he joined me at the Research Triangle Institute. 
 
By this time, many Iraqis who had been associated with Americans had gone into hiding.  My brother kept on working. 
 
Then, in  June  2004, we received a  death threat.  It was addressed to Ahmed, our older brother Hasan, and me.
 
Our family was badly shaken. Only a month earlier a co-worker had disappeared and had never been heard from again after getting a death threat.
 
I didn’t leave my house for five months. 
 
Meanwhile, Research Triangle’s democracy project was forced to disband and its American staff left Iraq.  I became deputy director of a British-run charity that professed no political agenda, while Ahmed went to Baghdad to manage a civic education program for the American Development Foundation. 
 
The two of us continued to pursue careers we loved, despite our family’s fears for our safety. We knew we were helping to rebuild Iraq. When Ahmed was honored for his work with an invitation to attend President George W. Bush’s second inauguration in Washington in January 2005, he proudly accepted.
 
Then, in June 2006, while on his way to visit his family, the taxi Ahmed was riding in was ambushed by a white car driven by four armed men dressed in black.
 
We were told that the gunmen surrounded the taxi and opened fire.  Ahmed’s body was found in the front passenger seat, punctured with 13 bullets.  With him was the satellite receiver he had been using to tune in to a World Cup soccer match during the ride.
 
After Ahmed’s death, my family was blamed. He was killed because we had worked with the Americans, our neighbors said. This is what happens when you work with Americans, we were told. Victims live with the shame. Victims live with the blame. 
 
I am afraid that what happened to my brother and my family will happen to other Iraqi families now that American troops have left Iraq. Those who worked with Americans will be targeted. 
 
My brother’s murder was never taken up by the Iraqi courts.  My 70-year-old father went to the courthouse every day to seek justice for Ahmed.  His petition was ripped up in his face—Muqtada al Sadr still controls our city.
 
I think of Ahmed every day. My brother was only 25 years old when he died. But he accomplished so much because he lived with purpose.  He loved Iraq and he wanted to make a difference.
 
I feel very lucky that I had the chance to come to the United States and work with the IRC helping other Iraqis rebuild their lives. I feel like I am able to help my family and my country.  
 
I don’t know what my fate would have been if I had stayed in Iraq, but I still love my home. 
 
*Names in this story have been changed to protect people still living in Iraq.
 

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13 comments

Comments

What a dramatic story you

What a dramatic story you have. Thank you for sharing because there is so much to learn. I hope the best for you to keep the strength to make your life beautiful even without Ahmed. Obviously, he still lives in you.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your brother with us. Blessings on you and your family. It is good and right that America opens it's arms to Iraqis who need protection and solice for their sacrifices and collaboration working with the US government. They did this for the ideal of a peaceful and free Iraq. May it one day be so. Inshalla.

I am proud of you and your

I am proud of you and your brother. Many local lingists were not so lucky like yourself, they worked faithfully, honorbly for a long long time with US Army, but they were rejected visas to resettle in United States because of some silly negative remarks on their records. Those Linguist`s lives are threatened and living in danger after they sacrificed with their lives and their families, children`s lives for the US Soldiers. I hope and pray to God that the State Department will look at them with an eye of Mercy and reconsider their petition to resettle in this great country, after all, they worked and sacrificed for our country and let`s give them the benefit of the doubt! good luck for you brother and hope that you will become a great American citizen. Let`s pray also for those rejected ones who worked side by side with us in Iraq since their lives are in danger!

I sympathize with your family

I sympathize with your family and your loss. However, I find it dubious to paint the US invasion as some sort of humanitarian affair. The crimes committed by US forces in Iraq are immeasurable. It's hard to be seen as "politically neutral" when you are working with an invading force.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story.

Sorry about the loss of your

Sorry about the loss of your brother. He was a true hero and so are you. I don't know why they hate the Americans. I know some are wrong, but not all of us.

I worked for two years in

I worked for two years in Iraq with the U.S. State Dept. I met many wonderful men & women, many with similar sad stories. I have great compassion for "Zeineb" and for all Iraqi people. Let us all hope that Iraq will soon be again be a country of peace, prosperity, and hope, Inshalla.

I am proud of your family, it

I am proud of your family, it is not everyone who has the courage to do that much his age.

War is not the answer. In my

War is not the answer. In my faith, we learn that violence must never be answered by violence. You and your brother were following your bliss, as it is said. Thank you for sharing your story, which few in the USA even know about. I pray that those who use violence (including the USA) as a way to enforce opinions, will see the light and know that violence is never the answer.

I'm glad you and your brother

I'm glad you and your brother both worked to improve the situation in your country. We do not receive enough information about ordinary Iraqis who are struggling to overcome tremendous difficulties. Thank-you. May the one day be a just peace in Iraq for all Iraqis, insh'allah.

Thank-you for sharing your

Thank-you for sharing your story. Noble struggles like these will forever remain in all of our hearts and memories. Please, never give-up on your genuine and compassionate goals.

So sorry to hear of your

So sorry to hear of your loss, and of all your brother's good work brought to such an untimely and violent end. The deteriorating situation in Iraq makes it even more urgent that Iraqis victimized by political gangsters are provided save haven in the US. Thanks for sharing your story.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story. You and your family are truly heroes. Your brother lived a very honorable life. Bless you all. Your family should be so proud of what selfless contributions of peace you and your siblings have made and continue to make. Many thanks and best wishes.

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