18 Jan Fleeing Home from Iraq: story of an Iraqi refugee

This is the story of Ali, an Iraqi refugee participant who attended a COA session in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2015. It has been translated from Arabic. Mr. Ali was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1989, where he graduated with a Bachelor degree in Computer engineering. He was a victim of civil war and sectarian violence, and he agreed to share his story with us. He left for Canada in the hours after the COA session ended.

Muhammed Ramadan

COA Turkey Facilitator

COA Turkey has provided training to 1,329 Iraqi refugees since its inception in June 2012. Iraqi refugees are the second largest group of refugees to receive training under COA Turkey, outnumbered only by Iranians.

My name is Ali and I am a Sunni Muslim. Up until 2013, I lived in Baghdad with my family. At the time, in Iraq, sectarian violence against Sunni Muslims had become rampant. Sunni Muslims were discriminated against, and my family was persistently asked to leave our home and move away permanently.

At the time, I was working for a telecommunications company located near my house. The turning point in my life came while I was on my way to repair a telecommunication aerial line with a Shia Muslim colleague. We were suddenly stopped by a group of Shia men, armed with machine guns. They asked us to show our ID cards and upon seeing our IDs they let my colleague go, but proceeded to threaten me with their guns. They tied my hands behind my back and beat me, simply because I was a Sunni Muslim. My colleague interceded on my behalf and managed to convince the armed men to let me go.

The following day, the same Shia militants were waiting for me in front of my house; they wanted to take me but my mother told them that I was not home. The militants were asking my mother questions about members of my family, our religion, associates, etc. They told my mother that they wanted to kill all Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

The militants waited for me, near our house, for more than one hour before leaving. My family had to face a harsh reality: the threat was real. We moved away the following day at 5am to my grandfather’s home. I stayed there for several days before I escaped from Iraq.

Like many other Iraqis, I crossed into Turkey. I applied for refugee status with the UNHCR upon arrival. I had hoped that I would be able to find employment and be in a position to provide for my basic needs, but it was not so easy. Despite all of my efforts and my education, I did not find any work and had to rely upon family members sending whatever they earned to make it possible for me to survive in Turkey.

I have now been living in a small room in Turkey for 24 months. It has not been easy, but I am relieved to know that this situation will soon be over and that we will start a new chapter in Canada. 

After attending a three-day COA session in Istanbul, I am now very optimistic and positive about my resettlement to Canada. I believe it is a safe country and a country of opportunities.

It has been a long time since I have felt safe. I am so grateful to be given this opportunity for a peaceful life.