In 1979, a violent conflict between Iraq and Iran erupted followed by clashes with Kuwait. The Iraqi government sent the militia, the local police force, to carry out its agenda. This led to massive killing and targeting of individual civilians and their families. Many were killed or displaced as a result. Zaid is one who found himself caught in the chaos.
Zaid completed high school and began college; he worked as a truck driver until it became too dangerous. There was no security in Iraq, Zaid says, "all the police are militia carrying out their special agenda- they don’t care for the individual people as they are supposed to." Because of the religious tensions, the militia seems to target Sunni, Shiite and Christian groups to break down any concentration.
Years after the war started with Iran in 1979, the fighting continued as new wars came to the area. In 1998, Zaid cut off his education to flee to the country of Jordan to find asylum.
While living in Jordan, Zaid moved around continuously so he could remain safe. As a Sunni Muslim, tensions were high with the Shiite Muslims. He says that it is difficult to be Sunni because Iranian Shiites made life dangerous. Zaid lived nomadically so that his location could remain a secret. He tried to return to Iraq at one point but he couldn’t stay because there was no change in the socio-political atmosphere- the war was still present.
After 13 years traveling in Jordan, the United Nations helped him arrange a secure ride on a plane to the US. For safety, Zaid was the only one on the plane. “It felt nice” to be leaving for the US, he says. He was happy to be going but he knew it would be a different life and expected that it would take a long time for him to learn how to live in the US. He expected everything to be new but good.
“In Iraq, life is bombs, killing. I lost my family, but here I am building myself- I have myself.”
On July 27, 2011, Zaid was met by his caseworker from World Relief and a volunteer at the airport. They took him to an apartment where he lives with other men from Iraq. One month after his arrival, Zaid says he is happy to be in a place where he finally feels safe. He is in school now to learn English.
One of the biggest challenges Zaid has found in America is learning the language. He already knows Arabic and Turkish but now he is focusing on English and even picking up a little of the Spanish his World Relief volunteer teaches him. Another challenge, he says, is finding a job. He doesn’t care what kind of job he gets right now, he just hopes to find one.
In the future, he would like to continue with his education but right now, he says he needs time to put a plan together. He says he misses his family and hopes that his one living brother will also come to the US. This is difficult because of his brother has a very large family, but Zaid hopes it will be possible because life is dangerous for them in Iraq. The militia shot his brother in the hand and it had to be amputated. " They tried to kill him," Zaid says, "but God saved him."
“Everything here [In America] is good,” he says. He is happy to say that he hasn’t seen anything not good in his time here. He says his favorite thing, though, is the justice, ‘al- adali’ in Arabic, he sees here that was lacking in Iraq. “I needed justice and I found it in America,” Zaid says.
His experience with World Relief has also been positive. He says when he needs something, he comes to World Relief and they help him. He knows many of the staff members by name and appreciates the help they’ve given in his job search. “I think it is a new family,” he says about his new friends and support system at World Relief.
This life is very nice,” Zaid says, “ I love anyone, black man, white, Christian, Muslim, Buddha…..we must live in peace- I needed this.”
-Stacey Eyman, August 2011