I was an Iraqi refugee. I keep thinking of the 2 million displaced Syrians

My family was forced to flee Iraq in 1991. Now Syrian refugees face similar hardships and are at the mercy of other nations

Aseel Machi
theguardian.com, Wednesday 11 September 2013 13.45 BST

As world powers debate the fate of Syria, there is much less discussion surrounding the status of Syrian refugees, even though their status remains critical.

The United Nations estimates that over two million Syrians have been displaced, many fleeing to neighboring countries seeking aid and shelter. Like those refugees, my family and I fled Iraq in 1991 for many of the same reasons; violence and oppression overcame many parts of our country and religious persecution was a daily reality.

After fleeing Iraq, we lived in various refugee camps for three years. In the beginning, we stayed on the borders of Iraq, clinging to our home and what we knew, until we were granted permission to enter Saudi Arabia and await visas from whatever country would take us. Various countries offered visas to different families; it was almost a luck of the draw type of thing. Mostly, we just waited patiently in the heat of the desert, protected only by the cement blocks that housed us.

My parents later shared their difficulties. I was still too young to comprehend the dangers we faced. Saddam’s thugs were out to terrorize those who would dare escape, setting camps ablaze and even killing the men. It was almost as if Saddam wished us dead no matter where we were.

My parents did not sleep much at night, instead keeping vigil and praying for our safety and a successful escape. It was finally in 1994 that we received the news that we waited for: we qualified to come to the United States of America on refugee status. Settling into the snow, something we had never seen before, we began our new lives in a cold and far land known as Michigan.

READ MORE HERE: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/11/war-refugee-flee-syria-iraq

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