Listen to Salah Hameed (10th Grade) tell his story.
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*Some grammatical/spelling edits have been made to allow better understanding.
I was born in Baghdad, Iraq on January 22, 1997. My parents are from Kurdistan. Kurdistan is a territory in North of Iraq. My father worked as a taxi driver. My mother was a housewife. I got my sister when I was two years old. My native language is Kurdish.
We were one of the poor families in Iraq. We had a chance to go to London and live there and get a better job for my father. We lost our chance to go there because when Osama Bin-Laden blew up two buildings in New York on September 11, 2001. The governments stressed security and played down the movement of airplanes in the airports. After that we didn’t still have enough money for the airplane. It was the best chance which the poor people gets.
A lot of children get lost and that is because their parents, when they don’t care about them very well when they are very busy. I was one of these children. I got lost when I was five years old. I was walking with my mother in the park, then she was talking on her cell phone with my aunt, then she heard a bad news about my grandmother. She had fainted and she was at the hospital. When my mom heard that she forgot everything, even me. Then she lost me. But after when she knew, her color changed to yellow and her heart began to beat rapidly. Then she was running and looking for me. After a few minutes she found me sitting and crying on the ground. Then she learned the lesson that was take care of your children even whatever was the thing that will make you busy.
In 2003 the Iraq’s war with America began in Basra for 20 days then in Iraq for 5 days, so we still at home till five days. Basra is a province of Iraq. We got ready for that day. We saved a lot of food, water, and gas at home. Most of the people weren’t like their president, Saddam Hussein, but when they got rid of him the stealing, murder, kidnapping, bombings and terrorism increased over there.
In 2004 I started going to school and since I was in a country where the people speak Arabic I had to learn Arabic. I learned Arabic very fast because children learn things faster than adults. Then I learned how to pray and read the holy Quran. Every time I had read the holy Quran and pray I felt tranquility, I like my religion. It is Islam.
In day I went with my sister to the store, which was close to our house, until we were walking and we saw a man shooting a machine gun on some people from his car. Then he run with his car after he killed two men. Then we were screaming and running to home. Then we were crying. That happened because the sectarians. In fact at that time some areas in Baghdad had divided to Sunni areas and Shiite areas. So if you were a Sunni you couldn’t go to the Shiite areas. And also most of the people hated each other and they were making the sedition between the people. I am Sunni but I don’t hate anybody, all the people are my sisters and my brothers.
And also because the sectarians killed my two cousins and the landlord. I t was night when they killed the landlord and we were sleeping. He was living next door. We woke up when we heard the shoots. We were feeling fear. Then my father said “What hell is this that we are in?”
The terrorism and the criminals never had an atom of mercy in their hearts. They blew up churches, mosques, hospitals and markets filled with people, even schools filled with students. They did all of these just for making the sedition and the sectarians between the people. My school was one of these schools that they wanted to blow up, but they couldn’t blow it up because the school guard found it at the main door of the school in the first hour. It was my favorite subject, and it is science. The bomb had timed to explode at the end of the school time. Next they called the emergency and the American soldiers to dismantle and stop the bomb, after that they sent all the students and teachers to their homes. We didn’t felt fear, we just confused because we didn’t saw the bomb or because we didn’t feel anything that making us feel fear like the voice of the bomb. Can you imagine what is this human who could put a bomb in a school filled with innocent children and teachers?
I do not remember that I had enjoyed anything in Iraq except when I visited some Iraq’s provinces and one of the gorgeous Kurdistan’s falls at the beginning of 2006. Each one of us sat on a comfortable flat chair in front of the falls. Then we relaxed and watched the wonderful fall, the larger green plants, the violet flowers, and the many kinds of birds. It was look like the paradise, and the sound like the roar, and the smell like fragrance because of the flowers. It was good to go to somewhere and get relax after a hard work or a grief and misery. We saw enough bloodshed.
In June 2006, in the morning, my father go ready to go to work. When he got out of the house he saw a skinny masked man was pointing at him with a gun, and then my dad go in the garden’s home and he closed the main door. Then the man jumped over the wall and started to shooting on my dad. Then he was running like a zigzag to the house’s door. My father was lucky because he didn’t get hurt. Then he got inside the house and he said three times, “Go back.” Then we ran to the last room of the house. Then the man was shooting into the sky because he wanted to make us feel scared. We were scared and hearing the sound of the shots and it sounded like the fireworks.
After that my father called my uncle to come to our house and help us. He didn’t call the police because they couldn’t protect their selves so how they could help and protect the people. We still at the last room till my uncle came and called us to get out. Then we go out and saw a letter. My father was the only one who had read it and it was saying that we have to leave the country before they kill us. After that my uncle took us by his red big car to rent a car and go to Jordan. We didn’t go by airplane because we weren’t having enough money for that. We spend 12 hours in that huge black car. The road was so hard because it had a lot of pitfalls and the weather was so hot and the car was without chilled. We lived there for two months and a half. We couldn’t complete our life there because the government did not give us the residence permit and be a refugee except if we bought a house or put a lot of money in the bank. So we had to move to another country. Then we chose Rif-Dimashq, Syria because my mother’s brother was living there. So we moved to there and we stay there for 6 years. My father didn’t find a job and if he found it it would not be enough to pay for the house’s rent. The work is a big problem in Syria. The office for refugees helped us with giving us food and insurance’s hospital. And my grandmother helped us a bit by giving us a little bit of money.
I started going to school and learning English language, how to ride a bike and how to use the computer. I met my best friend. He is very smart and his name is Ali Alsaleh. We went to many places in a school trip. It is good to gather with your friend in somewhere like one of the beautiful parks. My grandmother came to visit us in Syria with her two sons and daughter. My grandmother is 81 years old and has long white hair. We went to Kassioun’s mountain. Kassioun’s mountain is very cold but beautiful. We had fun and we played in the snow. Then the white soft snow stared to fall on us. It was nice.
After all this happiness on day of 2007, all the students were celebrating teacher day in school. After the celebration I was running to go home and then I suddenly saw a student was running in my way and at me. And then I collided with him. Next the blood came out of our forehead. We were like a zombie guy. After that we went to a different hospital. Our families were very scared and in the same time they were very angry. The operation was very hurt. I didn’t not go to school for two days.
In 2010 I started to learn French but I didn’t not like it because it was very hard and I didn’t have a good teacher. In fact I studied French for three years and my three teachers didn’t even teach me how to make a sentence. They were very lazy, but I still remember my letters and how to read. I notice something in my life, and it is after every time I felt sad, I felt happy.
At the end of 2010 and at the beginning of 2011, the Arabic revolutions got started when Mohammed Al-bouazizi burned himself in one of the streets in Tunisia. Then the most of the people demonstrated in the street because they didn’t like their president Zine El Abidine, but then they got rid of him. After that Egyptians, Libyans, and Yemenis tried to do that and they got rid of their presidents and they were Mohammed Mubarak, Muammar Al-Gaddafi, and Ali Saleh. And the last country that is still fighting is Syria. In fact the people who dint like their president Bashar AL-Assad made an army called Jaish Alhur to fight with him. And because the government is busy with fighting these people, stealing, murder, kidnapping, bombings, and terrorism increase over there.
We were everyday hearing the gunshots and a bad news about what was happening. My parents were afraid to send us to school, but we still going. Before the Arabic revolutions my family did an application to go to another country as refugees because my family didn’t still have enough money to live and we couldn’t go to Iraq. And we knew that the application would take a lot time, like sometimes three years and more, but ours took just two years. Then they told us that we will go the United States of America. We felt happy and thanked our God for that.
A week before we came to Columbia, Mo., early in the morning a car bombed beside Sayeda Zeinab’s Mosque which it was very close to our building’s apartment. My sleeping is very heavy and if someone throw a water upon me I will not wake up, I heard the sound of the bomb. I felt that the building wanted to fall down and I was aksing what happened. Well, we came to American and we liked to live here, and we will stay here, but my father hasn’t found a job because it is hard to find a good job for his age in this state. He is old and sick. He is now 57 years old and he had arthritis.
When the life is difficult, don’t despair and get ready for what will happen next. And work hard to make your future better. My message to the world is stop killing.