Sunday, October 29, 2006

Memories of an Iraqi American

1982 - 1990

When we returned to the US in 1982 we were very poor, and my parents struggled to pay the bills and keep moving forward, but they were always able to put food on the table. In 1983 we got Green Cards, and both my parents began working legally. Eventually they found jobs worthy of their education, and they were able to buy a house in 1985. After we moved into that house our situation began to improve. I started high school, and it was there when I realized for the first time that my experience in Iraq was a good thing. The last two years I spent in Iraq toughened me - I learned how short and unfair life can be. I learned that sometimes, hot water is simply not available - sometimes even cold water is not available! We spent many nights studying by lantern in Iraq. I spent 7th grade studying everything in Arabic, except English of course. I was very good at English, and pretty good at math, but I had trouble reading Arabic. History was a difficult subject. My parents helped, but it took me a LONG time to get through a few pages in Arabic.

I learned how to study hard, and when I started school in the US, I did fairly well because it was easier than school in Iraq. With my dad's help, I did well academically in high school. In 1986 my parents and I were invited to a ceremony at which students were recognized for their academic achievements. During the ceremony, my father told my mother that his best friend in Iraq (the Sunni Arab from Samarra) had been murdered earlier that year by the regime. I was shocked to hear this news, and my mother held back tears. My father was sad, but not surprised. His friend - our friend - was, kind, intelligent, and most gracious. He never abused his power and remained loyal to his friends. He was a wonderful father - I had a crush on his daughter.

In 1988 I started college, and the Iran-Iraq war finally ended. That year I saw a 60 Minutes report about Hallabja - for the first time the mainstream media in the US began to take a close look at the crimes of Saddam's regime. I was horrified by what Saddam's regime did to those poor people. That's when I began to think that the Kurds must have their own country. Despite the negative attention paid by the media to Iraq, it seemed as though things were looking up for Iraqis in the late 80s. The war had ended, and Iraqis were beginning to return to normal life. One of my cousins in Baghdad set up an airconditioning business with the help of an American company - apparently working with the Americans was not such a big deal back then - he did very well for himself.

In 1990, we became US citizens. One month later, Iraq invaded Kuwait.

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