Iraqi refugee shares story
Students gathered in Mary DeLuca’s room at lunch on Feb. 3 to hear a first-hand account of the Iraqi refugee crisis.
Northwood Amnesty International invited Ahmed, an Iraqi refugee currently residing in Turkey, to share his experiences with the students in a Skype call.
“It was interesting and moving to put a name to a face,” history teacher Greg Guy said. “We hear these stories on TV, we hear it on the news and we even read about it every day. To get to talk to someone and humanize it is what I think is impressive. I was really impressed with Mrs. DeLuca for setting it up and with how many kids were there. It was just a really neat little experience.”
All the seats in DeLuca’s room were filled, with some students seated on the floor. Attendees were given the opportunity to ask Ahmed questions about his situation and his opinion on the Middle Eastern refugee crisis. Amnesty hoped the experience would inspire students to have their voices heard.
“The room was packed,” junior Harry Liner said. “We handed out notes with contact information for our senators and our Congresswoman Mimi Walters so we can voice our opinion.”
Ahmed shared that he was a translator for the U.S. military during the war in Iraq from 2003 to 2010, a job that made him entitled to U.S. citizenship. He traveled to Turkey in 2014 with the goal of eventually making it to the U.S. However, with the Executive Order on travel enacted by President Trump on his second day in office, Ahmed may never reach his goal.
“When the ban was originally announced, I, being an American Muslim, took it as a direct political insult towards me,” senior Salma Hegab said. “However, because Egypt was not listed in the ban, I did not see any direct effect on it on my own family’s travels. It wasn’t until I listened to the Iraqi refugee that I realized the extent to which this ban has drastically changed some people’s lives.”
President Trump’s executive order has been especially hard on Ahmed, as Turkish law forbids him from working. As an Iraqi refugee, he is not eligible for work permits, which are only offered to Syrian refugees. According to Ahmed, he feels hopeless and doubtful of his chances of having a good life in Turkey. Hearing Ahmed’s story was a unique experience for students and teachers alike.
“He stressed how limited his chances are of having a good life in Turkey,” junior Madhulika Shastry said. “It felt really personal and had a big impact on me.”
Ahmed implored those at the event to avoid taking a bystander’s attitude and to instead join organizations and participate in protests to help his cause. A protest on Feb. 18 allowed opponents of the refugee ban to express their support for Ahmed and others like him. The Amnesty International Club also took action by holding a letter-writing campaign for students to protest the travel ban.
“As an American community we need to respect the values that our country has been built upon and honor the first amendment by not discriminating against others because of their beliefs,” Hegab said.