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A New Start Away From Home

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen she was younger, senior Annie Karim’s father told her a true story about a friend who had a hard time during the Iraq-Iran war.

One day a taxi driver was driving across a bridge in Canada and saw a man standing on the bridge debating on jumping and ending his life. The man in the taxi stopped and asked the man on the bridge why he would even question ending the life that God has gifted him. The man said, “My life is just too hard, I have been through way too much to be able to go on.”

The man in the taxi whose name was Ahmed said, “Let me tell you a story about how my life almost ended during the Iraq-Iran war. It was during the last year of an eight year-long war. I was surrounded by Iranian soldiers and I knew that would be the last breath I would take, but this one soldier from the opposing side came to me and helped me. He gave me bread, water and helped me get to the city where my soldiers were held so I would be able to escape. I’d never seen this man before; he’d never met me and I was also on his opposing Iraqi side and yet he still helped me. So my friend, the point of the story to tell you is that there’s always a reason for you to live, there’s always somebody here who is trying to help you.”

The man who was debating on ending his life looked at him and asked, “Are you Ahmed?”

Ahmed replied, “Yeah why?”

And the man said, “I’m the one who saved you back during the Iraq-Iran war.”

That’s when the man who was debating his life decided that there’s always a reason to live and there is no coincidence, everything happens for a reason. He saved that man during the Iraq-Iran war so years later that man would save him.

Annie’s father told her that those two men are best friends to this day somewhere in Canada and nothing can change their friendship.

[quote]That’s the kind of people in the Middle East that you don’t see on the news,” said senior Yamama Karim (who is known by her friends as Annie.)[/quote]

Karim was born in Iraq Baghdad. After the 2003 attack, her family decided to move to Syria (at that time Syria was a lot safer than it is now.) She lived there for about 4 and a half years and then left Syria because their parents realized that their children needed a safer and more educational life. Eventually Annie’s family moved to Georgia, and then to Saco, Maine.

UNICEF estimates that 1.7 million students are out of school. Annie’s family did not want her to become part of that statistic.

“My sister and I grew up in war, we saw things we wish we didn’t see,” said Annie.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), since January 2016 airstrikes, explosions, gunfires, or suicide attacks killed at least 9,153 Iraqis.

Zainab Jabor is a junior at Thornton Academy who also came to Maine from Iraq with her family.

She remembers, “It was just a normal sunny day, I was helping my mom in our indoor garden. I heard a very loud noise but I didn’t care much because I thought it was a truck or just an accident. Couple minutes later my mom and I heard women and children screaming. I had no idea what was going on, when we asked people in the streets they told us a car just exploded in the traditional market where everyone get their food and supplies.”

The bomb had exploded just a five-minute walk from her house.

“The next day I went to school and one of my friends was at the market when that happened. She told us she fainted a couple of minutes after the explosion and when she opened her eyes she saw people bleeding and body parts everywhere; she was shocked and crying, she couldn’t continue because it was hard to talk about. She had glass fragments on her face and hands. I always thought it was safe there until that happened,” said Jabor.

After that event, every time she went with her family to the capital city or any other place she always thought about what could happen along the way because cars and bombs explode most of the time, this day.

“I couldn’t find a reason for the explosion. Innocent people were hurt. At anytime this could have happened again. Fear and feeling of insecurity was taking over us,” said Zainab’s Mom, Monirah Jabor.

According to report of Migration Policy Institute. The percentage of Maine residents Foreign born has grown from 2.9% in 2000 to 3.4% in 2015 changing from 36 thousand to 44 thousand.

“Some people here accept me as a USA citizen but some people look at me and all they see is an immigrant, they don’t see the fact that I’ve been here for almost 10 years and I’m technically as much of a citizen as any other kid around me, but it’s just how it is,” said Annie.

An estimated 600 Iraqi immigrants have moved to Maine since 2008, including 573 refugees settled here by Catholic Charities Maine since 2010.

[quote]”There has to be a reason for these people to immigrate because no one wants to leave their country, live somewhere else and start a new life,” said Jabor.[/quote]

Both students miss their homeland, but find ways to connect with their culture as often as they can. They listen to Arabic/Iraqi  music on their way to school, they keep in touch with friends and family back home, they eat Iraqi food and celebrate their holidays.

They also find a comfort in greeting each other in the hallways in their native language.

The girls wish more people knew that Iraq has many beautiful things that people don’t see, people are kind, compassionate, they are always willing to help anybody around them. If someone struggles with money, finding a place to sleep or not having food to feed their family the neighbors will help. “Neighbors are more that people who live beside you, they are one big family,” said Jabor.

There is much more that the things that the news shows. Annie said, “it makes it seem like everyone is always fighting, that there is always war but that is not all my country is about.”

“I learned to look at every person as a human being that bleeds the same color blood that we do, we are all the same and should always appreciate each other rather than putting each other down and trying to get to the top,” said Annie.

Her little sister Youna and Annie Karim getting baptized a few months ago (left side) and Zainab Jabor ( right side.)
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