Iraqi refugee details kidnapping, struggle with refugee process

Iraqi refugee details kidnapping, struggle with refugee process

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Sara Al-Dahir, an Iraqi-American and professor at Xavier, was born in the U.S. but still has family overseas, many of whom are struggling through the refugee process.

Her Aunt, Sana, is one member who is trying to achieve refugee status. FOX 8 won't use her last name because of her situation, but we reached her through an internet call in the country of Jordan where she is currently living with her husband after escaping Iraq more than a decade ago.

"I faced in 2004 a kidnapping attempt, and I was dragged in the street. I had very bad damage to my knees," Sana said. "That's all because my husband is a professor at one of the universities in Iraq."

Sana's husband is a physicist who works with medical technology. Before fleeing Iraq, Sana was a statistician and worked with the less fortunate affected by the wars in Iraq, but in 2006 her home country was just too dangerous, so the couple fled to Jordan.

"We were out of our country with our own clothes we were wearing. You could imagine that I left the house I worked on for 30 years and I left it all," Sana said.

Because of her husband's expertise, he was targeted in Iraq, part of the reason she was kidnapped, and now returning to their home is a virtual death sentence.

"My husband cannot go back even to the Iraqi border. His name was one of the listed that came to be hunted," Sana said.

During the last eight years Sana has slowly worked to gain refugee status through the U.N., a process she said includes two visits a year to the United Nations in Jordan, just an initial part of what she thinks is an arduous vetting process.

"The first time you go there they ask you many questions, the details about the whole family. After that every time we go they start asking us the same questions," Sana said. "Like testing you if you're lying or not lying."

Year after year, Sana can only wait, until last summer when she and her husband were granted visitors visas, an opportunity she could have used to stay in New Orleans with her family.

"We could have found an asylum lawyer and had them remain here, but instead they returned back to Jordan to continue with the Iraqi refugee program because they had faith, even though they're very frustrated with the program, they wanted to do it properly," Al-Dahir said.

Now, after President Trump's executive order, she feels the faith she once had in the process is melting, but she won't let go of the chance that she can live safe, unafraid, and with family in New Orleans one day.

"I hope God will help us because we have no way, no home to go," Sana said.

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