BBC News Hour: Iraqi Refugees In Lexington

FarahIraqi Wildcat

We’re going for a posting trifecta today, which is a little much, but we couldn’t ignore this story that we heard on the BBC News Hour this morning, about Ethar and Haithem, two Iraqi citizens who have emigrated to — of all places — Lexington, Kentucky (above photos from the BBC News web site):

A storm was brewing and there was a roll of thunder. Farah – a four-year-old Iraqi girl now living in Lexington, Kentucky – urgently asked her mother, “Was that a bomb?”

Farah and her brother Bashar – who is nearly two – used to live in Baghdad with their parents Haithem and Ethar.

Ethar worked in a bank, Haithem as an interpreter – for the Iraqi army, and for American forces at a base near the capital.

… Ethar has a British passport (she was born in London), and so have the children. But Haithem has an Iraqi passport. The British authorities refused to let them settle in the UK as a family.

They applied to live in the US. It took two years, but they now have their “green cards”, which means they are permanent residents with the right to work.

They are finding it hard to adjust. The US is land of cars and credit cards. They have no car, and no credit cards.

And they have found it deeply unsettling moving from a country where there is immense community support to a place where they are expected to fend entirely for themselves.

… They arrived to a completely empty flat in Lexington. No beds, no seating, no kitchen equipment. Nothing. A friend lent them blankets, and they slept on the carpeted floor.

Haithem imagined he would get support from the local mosque in Lexington. They never returned his calls.

The family have now moved to a two-bedroom apartment, which is fully furnished and decorated with gifts from the local ecumenical church.

They have even provided toys and crayons and colouring books for the two children.

And they’ve been accepted by a local programme for refugees – which is paying their first three months’ rent.

Haithem and Ethar are mystified that the US Embassy in Baghdad gave them their documents, and said, “You’re good to go”, but made no provision for the complexities of arriving in the US.

We don’t think we need to point out the general failure that is the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, but articles like this are important to remind us that not only is the United States responsible for what might now be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis (an avoidable crisis at that), but that our government has refused so far to expand the number of visas available to Iraqis who have worked for the U.S. Armed Forces and other government agencies in Iraq — despite our own ambassador’s plea to Washington to do so.

If there are any readers of this blog in the Lexington area, we’d appreciate if you’d pass on information to us as to how to help Ethar and Haithem as the BBC’s news story doesn’t mention the church who donated so generously to them. We’d gladly publish the information and make a donation, and encourage our readers to do the same.


One Response to “BBC News Hour: Iraqi Refugees In Lexington”

  1. r. anny Says:

    Please let me know how I, or people in my community, can help Haithem and Ethar and others like them. I could not find any contact info on the BBC website.

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