What Makes an Iraqi Refugee
Chances are, if you live in or near a big city, you almost certainly have Iraqi refugees nearby.
After seven years of war and occupation, millions of Iraqis have fled to other countries seeking status as refugees, and millions of others are internally displaced in Iraq.
Many of the men, women and families still in Iraq have lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones to the war and are waiting to see if they will ever be able to return to their cities and villages. The poverty in these displaced communities has caused a lot of desperation – women have turned to prostitution and children have turned to criminal activity in order to obtain food.
But some asylum-seekers have more to fear than poverty and destruction. More to fear, even, than the violence most Iraqi refugees have fled.
Iraqis who can speak English and have experience with Western influences were in great part very excited when the Americans invaded Iraq. They saw it as a chance for more freedom, and perhaps as protection from dangers they already faced in a religiously tense country. Some of them became translators for the American government or its many contractors.
But as anti-American sentiment has grown in Iraq over the years, people who once were publicly supportive of the U.S. have now gone into hiding. Having supported the Americans at any point in the conflict can make an Iraqi into a pariah and threaten his or her safety, even if the person’s loyalties have since changed. Insurgents attack them; their families and friends hate them. Just last month, the son of an Iraqi translator murdered his own father in the night with an AK-47.
The responsibility for the refugees of the war in Iraq falls largely on the United States, and America has accordingly accepted a huge number of displaced Iraqis, although many more continue to live in terror in and around Iraq, waiting for someone to provide them with safety.
The Iraqis who are accepted into the United States have relative peace and security. But it is difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S., and the refugees often endure racial jeers and profiling from the very country they lost everything defending.
Anyone who does not support the war must still support these refugees. They are the casualties of a conflict that American votes allowed and have continued to reaffirm.
And anyone who supports the war must also support these refugees. They have fought in battle against their own families and friends on behalf of a country they believed could bring them freedom.
How to Get Involved:
To find out what you can do to help the Iraqi refugees in your area, start by contacting your local Catholic Charities or do an internet search for a Refugee Services group in your area. Many refugees need assistance as simple as donating a car seat, or as complex as helping someone find a job.