VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Our dream for Iraqis back home
December 21, 2011 by The IRC
|An estimated 1.3 million Iraqis remain displaced in their own country as the U.S. military mission in Iraq comes to an end. Another 1.6 million have fled to Syria, Jordan and other counties in the region. The IRC continues to provide a safe haven to these displaced people and other vulnerable refugees forced to flee their homes due to violence and persecution. Photo: Jiro Ose/IRC|
Our Iraqi colleagues who work in the International Rescue Committee’s refugee resettlement offices help to shine a spotlight on the ongoing crisis in Iraq by sharing personal accounts of the dangers and threats they have faced.
Noor*, 23, works as an office assistant with the IRC's U.S. refugee resettlement program in Utah. Her brother Ali, 28, is an IRC caseworker. Born in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to Iraqi parents, they moved to Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. They now live with their widowed mother in Salt Lake City. Noor shares their story:
We had to flee Iraq after receiving several threats from al Qaeda. They told us to leave the country within 24 hours. We abandoned our house and all of our possessions and fled to Syria, where we applied for refugee status.
Then, in 2009, we were invited to resettle in the United States. We arrived in Salt Lake City on January 15, 2009 with our mother. An IRC caseworker and an interpreter met us at the airport and took us to an apartment the IRC found for us. The caseworker spent a lot of time with us as we settled in, describing the services the IRC would provide and helping us get to know our new home in America.
A typical day in the U.S. is completely different from one in Iraq: We now have the freedom to follow our dreams. Our lives have changed drastically for the better.
The IRC gave us the opportunity of a lifetime when we were hired as full-time employees. One of the many highlights of working with the IRC is the chance to meet courageous refugees from all over the world with very different — yet still similar — stories of fleeing their homes to start a new life. It is very humbling.
We miss everything we were forced to leave behind in Iraq, but it would be impossible for us to go back home. If we did, we would be killed in revenge for our family’s association with a foreign company. Ali has lost a few of his friends in car bomb attacks. And some of our former neighbors have had to flee to Jordan and Turkey after receiving death threats.
Our relatives and friends who are still in Baghdad tell us that even with U.S. troops withdrawing from Iraq, life is still difficult. They lack basic services like electricity and public transportation.
Living in the war made us appreciate everything we have. One of our dreams is to continue our education. We both go to night school now. Ali wants to get a degree in social work so he can help other refugees adapt to life in the U.S. I am studying at a community college and plan to become a dental hygienist.
Although Ali and I are not thinking of going back to Iraq to live, we hope that one day we will be able to visit and to see our extended family again. Our dream is that all Iraqis will have a better, more secure, life -- and not live in fear that their loved ones could be killed. We also dream of the time when families like ours can reunite after being torn apart by war.