"I am a Refugee"

The following was written by an Iraqi Muslim friend who arrived in the US as a refugee.  Her name has been changed for privacy and security.  

I always take a deep breath and listen to my heart.  It says, who am I?  Where am I?  Where is my family?  How can I live again when I long for everything I have lost?  All of these questions are in my head every day.  I answer myself with yes, it is difficult, but you will live.  It is difficult, but you will succeed.  It is difficult, but it is worth it to give my family a better future.

I am Dunya.  I am an Iraqi Muslim refugee woman.  I understand first-hand the challenges faced by refugees.  Refugees who run away from hell to find a life as a human.  My story starts when I was forced to flee from my country because of the militias killing people. Killing them only because of their religion.  I did not want to leave my country and my life, but it was my only choice in order to save our life.  I went to Jordan with my family (mother, father, sister, brother, husband and beautiful daughters) attempting to save our lives.  After two months, we filed an application with the United Nations.  They would help us petition for a new country of residence.  It was very difficult life in Jordan because we didn’t have a resident permit and we couldn’t work.  My brother and my mother found out they had cancer.  We needed to buy their medicine, but had no way to pay for it.  Being without income made our life unbearable.  I am not just telling a story; I share with you the pieces of my broken heart.  I don’t use ink; I use my tears to write.

After waiting a long time, we found out the United Nations would send us to the USA.  I was heartbroken.  They would only send me and my small family and I would be forced to leave my brother, mother, sister and father in Jordan.  I couldn’t be happy.  I needed to stay with my brother and mother.  They needed me, and I couldn’t leave them.   At the same time, I realized I couldn’t keep my daughters from the opportunity of a better life.  I was very scared because I didn’t know how the American people would treat us.  I wondered if they would accept me or not.  All my friends told me, “Don’t go to the USA. The people over there will hit you. You can’t live with them and you can’t work.”  I knew I didn’t have another choice.  I felt I had to go, I couldn’t go back to my country, and I couldn’t stay in Jordan.

We finally reached the USA, and we were scared.  We traveled with other refugees and couldn’t stop thinking about our new life here in USA.  We couldn’t believe we were in the USA at last. Our first impressions of the USA were of the huge airport of Chicago. We finished our formal documents and proceeded toward Des Moines.  My cousin was there waiting for us in the airport.  I remember my first questions for her were, “How is life here?  Is it really difficult?  Can we live here?’’  She laughed and told me, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”

The days rolled by and we became accustomed to our new life.  I found the American people to be very nice and realized this new life would not be as difficult as I thought.  I started making decisions to invest time in ESL courses to improve my English language skills. I also met a friend of my cousin’s and asked him to find an American friend for me.  I met my best and wonderful friend through him.  I’ve begun to improve my English skills with my friend and my courses.  I started planning my future and I am getting my undergraduate degree in Life Sciences evaluated through the University.  I will complete a degree in Genetics and will graduate next fall.  

Now I have a lot of American friends.  I have plans, dreams, and goals.  I am starting to feel successful in my life.  I am thankful for everyone who has helped me learn to live again.  I am thankful for everyone who is helping me succeed.  I am thankful for America, because here we have a new life.  We will work hard to build our future here and save the USA.  We will work hard to be positive people in the USA.  We will work hard to see our daughters graduate from the University.  We will work hard to be as the USA wants us to be.

By Dunya