Perceptions from an Iraqi Refugee

by Farah Abrahim Moshen
July 24, 2009

As an Iraqi refugee displaced for six years in a row, the vision of Iraq has become more distant every year, but the desire to go back grows stronger day after day. On a cold Damascus winter afternoon, over a hot cup of Shai Khameer, I shared with a friend my dream to go back home. “If you miss home so much,” he asked, “why don’t you go back?”
“If only it was as easy as it sounds,” I said. I sighed and my eyes filled with tears. He wondered what I meant and why a girl like me, who has nothing to do with any conflict and is not affiliated with any group, militia or party, could not simply go back home. But that is where the problem lies. Though I do not have any of these affiliations, I am a target because I am an educated Iraqi woman.

The American led invasion unleashed many hungry monsters that were competing for the biggest share of Iraq. The hatred that most of them carried towards the former regime worsened our situation. Since the first day of the invasion there has been bloodshed; lists of most wanted people and death threats have spread everywhere. All were seeking vengeance from all, and the doors were wide-open, thanks to the American forces. There was no authoritarian censorship as in previous years, but complete “democracy”. This chaos, interspersed with periods of extreme harshness and dreamlike calm, has continued for six years. Various methods of terror and fear have been used, such as car bombings, kidnappings and raping of women. This latter practice ends almost all the time by killing the women and throwing them in the streets like garbage. Corpses could frequently be seen in the streets of Baghdad; their faces mutilated beyond recognition, thus depriving their loved ones of a decent funeral.

Although my family and I left Iraq two months after the war started, we are consistently updated about the happenings in Iraq. A lot of what is being reported in the American news only shows the positive side of what is happening in Iraq. It started with media catchphrases “democracy is finally here” and “freedom for everyone.” Later, we heard babbling about how the “surge is working”. Most frustrating is the proposal that Joe Biden came with when visiting Iraq earlier this month. Biden’s proposal offers equal rights for the three main sects of Iraq Shia, Sunni and Kurds as “quota-sharing” or what is called “Muhasasa” in Arabic.

But what about the Christians and other minorities in Iraq? Where is their share of the quota? And how could this possibly be presented as an equal division and fair sharing of rights and resources in the new democratic Iraq? All I can see from this proposal is that it will broaden the divisions between all sects of the Iraqi society, when what truly needs to happen is to bridge what separates Iraqis.

As an Iraqi refugee who lived in three different continents for the past six years, I see Iraq from a different perspective. I see its wounds, I feel its pain, I hear its scream. I know what is happening today and I have only my prayers and my voice to tell the story of a country that is my home.

About Farah: Born and raised in Baghdad, comes from a middle class family. After the American led invasion of Iraq, Farah and her family moved to Syria in 2003 and lived there for five years. She studied English Literature at Damascus University in Syria, then joined the Iraqi Student Project (ISP) in 2008. She is currently living in northern California and is studying at Dominican University of California majoring in Political Science. Farah is available for speaking engagements regarding her experiences as an Iraqi refugee. She can be reached at [email protected].