Iraqi Christians living in the US are being rounded up by immigration officials and deported to Iraq in what human rights lawyers are calling a “death sentence.” More than 200 Iraqis, many of whom are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, are facing deportation for committing petty crimes and misdemeanors. However, many facing deportation, described as “criminal aliens” by officials, have argued that the charges were handed down decades ago and that they pose no risk at all to the community.
To get a sense of what these people are facing if they are forcibly returned to Iraq, please read the below interview with Imad, one of the Iraqi Christian refugees we are helping in Jordan.
FRRME: “Where in Iraq are you from and why did you leave?”
Imad: “I am originally from Mosul. When we were there during the invasion in 2003 people were being killed according to their identity. If you were Christian they would kill you. I saw my friends in a car near my house get killed. My wife saw this too and said we must leave Mosul and go to another region. That is when we went to Nineveh. We lived a normal life there but when ISIS came in 2014 and the fighting started we went to Erbil in Kurdistan.”
FRRME: “What was life like in Nineveh before ISIS came?”
Imad: “It was good. We had a house, a car, and I ran my own car repair business. But we were afraid. It was dangerous for us because we are Christian. If, for instance, I repaired someone’s car and the owner of the car did not want to pay the bill, I couldn’t say anything as a Christian. Even though it was dangerous it was still a good life for us in Nineveh.”
FRRME: “What was life like before Nineveh?”
Imad: “It was tough. In 1997, a person broke into my house. He was holding a gun and wearing black clothes. He told us not to say anything. He told us to give him all the money we had. I told him I had 400 Iraqi dinars, the gold of my wife, and a car. Then I distracted the man for a moment and struck him, trying to incapacitate him. The man shot me in the chest. My uncle was there as well and was shot in the leg. My wife and mother and nephew hid and were safe. The man ran away, and my nephew took us to the hospital.”
FRRME: “What is life like in Jordan now with your family?”
Imad: “Life here is better than in Iraq. We live in safety, and we thank God and FRRME for everything. We thank the King of Jordan too for allowing us to come here.”
FRRME: “How have things changed for you in Jordan?”
Imad: “In Iraq, I went to church from time to time, maybe twice per year. Here in Jordan we have gotten to know Jesus more and more. When I was in Iraq, I didn’t read the Bible. Here in Jordan I read the Bible every day.”
FRRME: “Did the hardship you experienced make you trust God more?”
Imad: “Everything I went through brought me closer to Jesus.”
FRRME: “What is your hope for leaving Jordan? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do next?”
Imad: “I would like to go to Australia. Every day I pray to God that I will be able to go to Australia and that my wife and daughter will be able to go there as well. I pray that my daughter can go to school and that we can have a home of our own there, that we can have a normal and safe life again.”
FRRME: “Have you put in an application to go to Australia?”
Imad: “Yes, I put in an application with the Australian Embassy last year. We want to go to Australia because the Christians have more rights and help in Australia.”
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