From the outside, I am the guy who is helping others, the brother supporting my family, the counter trying to help those who need it most. From the inside, I am crumbling, I am being torn apart by haunting memories and images of war, of prejudice and hate caused by hate between religions and of the fear of not being the man I want to be. Nobody ever said life was easy, but they also never warned me it would be this hard. I am a 25-year-old refugee living in Amann, who no matter how much I work towards a better life always seems to get pulled back in to my nightmares of my Baghdad childhood. My name is Saad, meaning happiness and good fortune – every day I am working to achieve the destiny of my given name, working for the happiness of others.
I don’t like to talk about the sad details of my life. Growing up in a country where being threatened due to my religious beliefs was a norm rather than an except led to many dark years. I am Christian – Catholic to be more specific. In Iraq, being Christian is a one-way ticket towards exile. In truth, being ignored or looked down upon was the part I could manage. It is when you are stripped of your home, forced out of your country and continuously punished by the corrupt workings of the place you call home…this is where it really tears you apart. To this day, despite my happy and can-do facade, I continue to fight the emotional demons of my past with every part of my core. That said, I don’t want to sound like everything in my life has been horrible. I have also been very fortunate to be raised in such a loving home, and to have escaped to such a secure and beautiful place I now call home.
Here, in Amman, I am safe. I continue to battle with my inner peace, thinking about all that I have lost and all that I will never get back. But at least here, I do not face daily threats of death nor do I hear bombs ricocheting off the walls around me. Here, when people look at me, I am a refugee. I am not a reject Christian boy defying the only way of life my neighbors and people have been corrupted to believe. While the identity of being a refugee isn’t always easy, it sure beats being Christian in a land where you are not wanted. Being a refugee is a different kind of battle, but at least here, I know I have a fighting chance. I have goals that I know I will reach and dreams I am constantly pursuing. And a big part of my goals and dreams means following my life long desire to be in charge of my life, not just personally but also academically and occupationally. When I ask myself when this dream turned into a prospective reality, I recall the exact turning point. Kiron.
For me, Kiron is so much more than finding hope towards education. For me, Kiron gave me my first real chance to help people. I am an active volunteer, in the meantime for three incredible organizations and counting. I volunteer with Kiron, JRS, FCA and Sky School. But Kiron is where I kickstarted my so-called counter career. Kiron is the first organization that I had the chance to formally work for. I get to be apart of such an amazing team working on amazing and inspiring things. From working with the best MOOC organizations like Coursera and edX to having the chance to fine-tune my business management dreams. For my own growth, I even started taking the business management courses with Kiron back in 2016. The things I have learned since then are priceless!
Kiron gave me my first real chance to help people.
Since then, dealing with scholarships and university acceptances have proven difficult. However, I managed to become part of online learning programs and studied Liberal Arts. Degrees, academic and volunteering aside, in many ways, I am still the same guy I have always been. I am a very serious person, but I think this has to do with my childhood. I am the oldest, which came with a lot of responsibility. My entire life, I have been a provider, making sure that those who depend on me are taken care of. Maybe this is why I like volunteering so much..I have a lifetime of experience of learning how to help others. Being from a culture that is in so many ways beautiful yet simultaneously unaccepting of your beliefs makes for an interesting perceptive. I have come to understand many things in life, but perhaps the most useful skill I have learned over the years is to work with logic. I am a motivated person who takes on a lot of responsibility. But at the end of the day, I know my limits and while I am always pushing for more, I depend on my logic to only take on as much as I can handle. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, especially not myself.
Currently, I live with my family, well only some of them. Together with my little brother and father, we are taking care of our ill uncle. My brother and I still carry hope, but we can see it the fatigue in our fathers eyes…My faith and beliefs in Christianity are the one thing that has not been taken away from me over the years. I think this is very important for everyone, especially for the millions of refugees worldwide – no matter what you religion, keep God first. Through your beliefs you can be a better person. Instead of waiting for a sign or dreaming of something that may never come, use your faith and strength to act. If we don’t take life by the horns, we will never be in the driver seat. If nothing else, my faith has taught me that I am the only one who decides my destiny.
Starting over isn’t easy. But neither is staying in a place where you are not wanted. I ask every refugee to remember this. When you feel let down or without power, remember that the place you are now, even if you are misunderstood, you are safe and you have the chance to start over. Respect the country in which you reside and do not feel shame for your past or your beliefs. No matter how hard times can get, remember who you are, be kind to your neighbors no matter who they are, and most importantly, act. Act today so you can see the future you want tomorrow – just like my name has foretold all these years, good fortune will come with my perseverance.
Interview by Flora Roenneberg #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation