Before coming to Spokane, Washington, Jinan worked as a hair dresser in Iraq. When the U.S. Army came to to Iraq, this 49-year-old single mom began cutting the soldiers' hair. She was happy for the work and enjoyed learning English from the soldiers. Jinan was grateful for the help the American government was giving Iraq, however, many other Iraqis hated the US troops and believed that they were there to harm Iraqi citizens rather than help them.
Because of her job with the Americans, the Iraqi militia began to target and threaten Jinan. One day four men assaulted her.. They took her, beat her, stole her money, jewelry and her house key, then kidnapped her. She spent two days hunched in the corner of an unknown building with no food and no expectation of survival. During that time her captors would ask her why she helped the Americans who were there to hurt Iraqis. She would reply, “The Americans are here to help, not hurt. You’re Iraqi and you’re the one hurting me. Why are you hurting me?” They responded with more beatings.
After two days, the men left her in a box on the street. People walked by and thought she was dead because of her physical appearance, however, after a while her moaning convinced them otherwise. Jinan was taken to the hospital for treatment. There, she was afraid to use her real name because the Iraqi hospital workers didn’t trust people who were affiliated with the Americans. During the night she left the hospital and called the US Army. When they saw her, they asked what had happened and sent her to the camp hospital where she stayed for two weeks.
While Jinan was in the hospital, her kidnappers broke into her house and robbed her. Jinan no longer felt safe even in her own home. Rather than return to her home, Jinan stayed safely in the US Army’s camp while boss filled out immigration papers for her to come to America. After 3 years of waiting, everything was ready for her journey.
On January 31, 2011 she and her 11 year old son arrived in the Spokane Airport. Unsure where her son would sleep or where they could go, Jinan was relieved to be greeted by a group from World Relief. They arranged lodging for her and her son while their house was being prepared. Jinan says that she didn’t need to see the duplex before it was ready because she believed that everything in it would be acceptable. “Everything in the US is good.” When she first saw her house she said, “I like it because it’s the first house I have in America. I love it!”
During her first two months in Spokane, however; Jinan didn’t find much she liked. The winter was much colder and harsher than her home in Iraq. She missed having her car and her business- she had to start from scratch. Things are starting to turn around for her.
Coming from a country where women have to cover their hair, are discouraged from driving, rarely have professional jobs, and people live in fear of the militia, Jinan enjoys the freedoms of the U.S. But her favorite thing she says is that, for the most part, the people in America have good hearts. Her landlord had never rented to a refugee before and was uncertain how communication and cultural differences would affect their relationship, but he and Jinan’s son quickly became friends and now they all enjoy spending time together.
Ultimately she would like to work again in a salon. She might even open a salon of her own. She has 25 years of experience and it's her passion. It will take time, however, as her Iraqi license is not valid in the US. She hopes to learn English well enough to go to beauty school. Currently she is nearing level 4 out of 6. Once she completes level 6, the next step is college.
Jinan says she would like to work for the US Army again. When working with them, she felt safe and well taken care of. She appreciates how the friends she made in the army know her and speak slowly so that she can understand and learn.
Jinan wants to thank all the volunteers and all the people who have helped her. She says the volunteers help her with everything- going to church, going shopping and she feels like she can tell them anything. “I don’t feel like she’s a volunteer but a friend,” Jinan says referring to the volunteer she is matched with. Jinan testifies to the value of people stepping into each other’s lives when they are in need. When asked what she would like to say to people who help refugees, she replied, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you to all American people. Thank you to the Army who always helps me. Thank you very much.”
- Stacey Eyman, July 2011