After recently partnering with a new Better to Give partner – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) – UncommonGoods was lucky enough to have an audience with Omar Almashhadani, a refugee client of the IRC. Omar describes himself as being a refugee twice in his life. In 2006, Omar was living in his native Iraq, studying prosthetic dentistry, and was hoping to continue his studies and move into practicing – but his life was in danger. The security situation in Iraq had collapsed, and his family fled the country to what they thought at the time might be a beacon of safety—Syria. They lived in a refugee camp, and Omar and his brother couldn’t go to college or work because of restrictions on refugees. Given the bleak outlook for their futures in a refugee camp, Omar and his family decided to apply for refugee resettlement in the United States, and in April 2008, were granted resettlement in the U.S. With help from the IRC, Omar became a U.S. citizen and has been going to school and working in New York City ever since. Here’s a look at our conversation with Omar.
What was your life in Iraq like before the war?
It was peaceful, quiet, and I could go outside to hang out with my friends and family. We had many different communities and different religions, but we were all very happy and peaceful.
How did your family decide it was time to leave Iraq?
In 2003, the war drove me and my family out of my hometown and into the center of Baghdad where we stayed with my uncle. Unfortunately the conflict continued to escalate with suicide bombings and rumors of people being kidnapped. Then in 2005 my brother was shot in the leg, and we realized it was too dangerous to stay any longer. We knew we had to leave as soon as possible, so we applied for an Iraqi passport – which can take a year to be approved. Finally we fled to Syria in 2006. At that time, Syria was considered safer than Iraq.