Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shataa Faisal: An Iraqi Mom On War, Struggle, Hope, Faith

1) What brings you to America?

Shatha Faisal: There was no way to “live” in Iraq and we exhausted all options to even be able to survive there. Early of 2005 when we used to live in Baghdad, we kept receiving written notes from unknown party that we should leave our neighborhood because we were “terrorists”. We ignored these threats and put our fate in Allah’s hands. May 23, 2005 at 11:30 PM Talal (the father) came from work and we were getting ready to eat dinner outside in the backyard since there was no electricity. So Talal turn on a gas operated generator and we settled to start eating. Suddenly, something exploded near us and apiece of metal hit the generator and set it on fire. Talal and Faisal, who was 4.5 years old at that time, got burned from the gasoline that spilled out of the generator. Talal got sever burns on his legs and Faisal had 90% of his body severely burned. We rushed him to a hospital, hoping to find a clean room or bed so his burns don’t get infected, we were turned a way since there was no clean room or bed suitable for his situation. We went from one hospital to another while Talal and Faisal were suffering and crying from pain. We went to the 16 hospitals in Baghdad, but no single hospital was able to care for them. One doctor said to us, Faisal is going to die so stop trying. Two days latter, the we went to Jordan seeking medical treatment. Three days latter, Faisal died. 17 days latter, Talal was released form the hospital and we went back to Iraq. Two months after we returned to Iraq, someone bombed our $300,000 supermarket and our only source for living. We were trapped in our home fro two months with no work, no hope, shocked, and afraid to be killed. Then, we gave up on life in Iraq and went to Jordan and applied to seek refuge in a foreign country. Our life in Jordan was as hard as in Iraq since we were not “legally” allowed to work or own in Jordan.

2) What are the challenges of re-settling here?

Shatha Faisal: Our main challenge is to hold on our own values, believes, and way of living while fitting in the American society. We worry about our kids and worry if they practice their values, which comes from their religious believes, they will not be accepted. On the other had, we worry they will take too much from the American culture. We believe us coming to this country is a true test from God to our strengths and to our attachment to our values and believes. Also, the financial requirements in the US to live in a comfortable home, fulfill our basic needs, and take care of our kids future is a true challenge considering we have never used government help or relied on others.

3) Would you want to return to the Middle East at all?

Shatha Faisal: Yes, we would love to. We have a hope our country’s political dilemma will get better and if not, we would love to live in an Arab county since we feel we belong there. We belong to a society that understand our needs and share our pain. Here we feel we have to keep everything inside and put on a face to fit in. with all respect the American way of living, it is not our style.

4) What are your impressions of the people in America?

Shatha Faisal: We met many nice and kind Americans. We believe smiling in public is a social norm more than reality. It seems Americans focus more on the subject matter, law, right or wrong, objects, etc, more than they do on people. People tend to talk directly about subjects, rather than feelings, which is hard for us to accept or to be part of.

5) You have seen so much. How has that changed the person you are?

Shatha Faisal: Our country has been in ware since we were children. Death and human suffering became part of our life. Shetha: seeing dead bodies, blood, and on going pain and suffering around me made me closer to God and made me believe life is very fragile an it could end any second. I convinced myself not to be worried about tomorrow and never be angry or upset with someone. That someone or myself might die any second, it is not that hard. So, I want always to be ready to meet my Lord and force myself not to do wrong, which eventually makes me view life as a temporary stay that is not worth worrying. I am calm all the time and try to find a positive side to everything around me.

6) Do you have hope for a better tomorrow?

Shatha Faisal: Yes, if we don’t have hope for tomorrow we would be dead by now. We hope and in fact we believe things will get better in home country, Home keeps us going in this life.

7) What gives you the strength to go on?

Shatha Faisal: Our kids and our hope their future will be better than ours. We were not given the choice to come to this life, but it is up to us what to do with it and how to manage it. We chose to make ours simple. There is no need to worry more than what we have to. Also, our hope in better tomorrow keeps us going. As long as we are still alive, there is a hope for change in the future. We try to stay always positive and be happy of what God offers us that day.

8) How do you explain such difficult things to the children?

Shatha Faisal: We always believe in telling the truth and always have informed our kids of anything happen to us, good or bad. The only thing different is the approach. We try to break the bad news down to their level so they can understand it and mainly accept it. We tell them why do things happen and why, and we try to find something positive to attach to it. We want them to know, but we don’t want to devastate them either, which seems to work. When Faisal died, we told Haowa, who was 5 year old at that time, “that God loves us and we love him, and when we love someone, we love to meet them, Faisal loved God and he loved meeting him, God accepted his wish and took him to stay with him”.

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