I took a deep breath, trying not to cry. I said, “Goodbye!” I came from the Mid East; my country of origin is Iraq. As the oldest of five children, I have always been expected to be flawless and independent. I had to take on the important role of eldest son by teaching and being a role model to my brothers. I attended school in Iraq and was awarded several times for my excellent academic work. I was a model student for my fellow students. I was expected by my teacher and family to continue my education and become a professional. How little did I know that this promising beginning would change so drastically within a year’s time.
In 2003, the war between the American army and my people began. The situation in Iraq grew very difficult and violent. Mahdi Army or Jaysh Al-Mahdi, a “special group,” uses violence to achieve political power. This group was getting support from the Iranian government against the Sunni Islamic group. Mr. Sadr, a strong leader of the Al-Mahdi army was involved with persuading citizens to his political party’s ideas. He pretends to wants calm and reconciliation between the Shias and Sunnis, "for the sake of Iraq's independence and stability." However, he hides behind this false mask of peace for his own purposes. Under this terrible situation, my family and I began to live a very different and difficult life. Al-Mahdi was kidnapping persons by their last names by whether it sounded Sunni or Shia. Their hate and hostility made them even do the unspeakable, like murdering young boys. One morning, a letter with three bullets inside was dropped at the front gate of my house saying “Leave before we get you.” In addition, they wrote “wanted” on the wall, painted with blood. We were forced to leave our house in order to get into a safe place. We knew that it was dangerous for us to even stay in our home country. Therefore, we were forced to leave our country.
We immigrated to Syria, the country next to Iraq. I went to school in Syria as well, and completed my freshman and sophomore years successfully. Even though their education system is different from my country, I still performed excellently in my school work. We stayed in Syria for five years. As five years passed, I still continued to worry about my friends and family back home. It was the worst time in my life when I had to leave my old friends. My precious family that I value so much there was left behind. As the years went by, I felt even more helpless and hopeless to reach them. Having no idea about what was going to take place in my life for the future was a scary thought for me. What if no one got along with me? What was I going to do to help myself cope with the situation by myself? Those questions were questions I had to leave unanswered, for I had to live in the moment to really take action in my life. A turning point in my life was when I had to start in a new environment. This is a significant change in my life because it symbolized how I was becoming an adult and finally having a safe, normal life of school, work and friends. I was now able to have more freedom and choices compared to war-torn Iraq. When we inquired about the asylum through the United Nations (UN) to relieve the persecution that the Iraqi people faced, I was hoping to share that information with my friends and family back home.
The reason why we moved from Iraq to the USA was because our family suffered a huge personal loss. Not only were my family and I experiencing a terrible sense of loss-of-country, but I also lost the person who meant so much to me in life. My grandma had a terrible experience that no one could have ever imagined while shopping in the market. On a sunny beautiful day, my grandma went to the store to buy food for her guests on a Muslims holiday, and all of the family were preparing for a huge family dinner. We felt safe because she was going with her friends would be meeting there as usual. All of a sudden, we heard a bomb. We always heard bombs explode, but this time it sounded like it went off close to where she might be shopping. So we ran to the store to make sure my grandma was safe. We saw the sky filled with fire, and people screaming and crying. We saw destruction and a fiery hole where the store use to be. I asked if anybody knew where my grandma was. Finally we received a call from the hospital telling us that my grandma had been killed by the bomb. Everybody who knew my grandma was deeply upset about losing her. She was a wonderful person, she give more than she ever took. My childhood was miserable at that time. I felt death was running after everybody in Iraq. But it also developed a strong sense of character and personal strength.
I am now very committed to becoming the best I can be here in the USA. As a promise to my family and in honor to those left behind, I plan on obtaining a successful career after my college education is completed. Some people here have no idea what it is like to live through deep tragedies. They cannot imagine what it is like to be persecuted for the name you have or the way you practice your religion. After everything I’ve been through in my life, I know that any minor setbacks that could ever happen to me will be easy to overcome. I am a strong person with good morals and values. I know what it is like to live in a country that doesn’t value human life, so I will never stop at the chance to help my fellow human being. I am glad to be living in a country now that may not be perfect in every way, but at least I don’t feel as fearful here as my life there. I plan on taking all the knowledge and strength I’ve learned into my future life here on all levels- spiritually, emotionally, and life career.