Originally from Myanmar, Mohammad was resettled by the IRC in Atlanta in 2012, after living as a refugee in Sri Lanka for five years. “I fled to Sri Lanka because of the discriminatory policies that the Myanmar government continues to practice against my ethnic group,” Mohammad explained. “I belong to the Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority. Since the government is predominantly Buddhist, it has effectively institutionalized discrimination against the ethnic group through restriction on marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice and freedom of movement. And I have been a victim of this discrimination.”
Mohammad’s long journey to freedom began shortly after violence erupted in his native land. “About 99 of us left Myanmar with a fishing boat,” he recalled. “We crossed the Naf River driving the small boat and while we were in the middle of the river the engine broke, leaving us stranded and struggling for our lives for 13 days. During this hard time, we lost 72 people due to lack of food. After a long journey, we realized that were close to the neighboring country of Sri Lanka.” Mohammad and the other survivors jumped into the river and swam for hours before eventually being rescued by the Sri Lankan government.
Five years later, Mohammad was approved for resettlement by the U.S. government and welcomed to Georgia by the IRC in Atlanta. “When I first arrived, it was very difficult for me to adjust to the system. However, the IRC made things easier for me by helping me find a job, housing and other necessities,” Mohammad explained. The IRC in Atlanta’s Immigration team helped Mohammad apply to reunite with his wife in 2016, and most recently assisted him in applying for U.S. citizenship.
Mohammad was sworn in as a citizen on January 14, 2019—the same day he and his wife welcomed their second child! “Now that I am a citizen, I feel like my family and I are safe to live in the United States. It was a long journey getting here and I am deeply grateful to the IRC for all the help they provided to me.”
Since 2017, Mohammad has served as president of the Burmese Rohingya Community Center, which provides English, cultural and Koran classes, and other community services.
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.