Jahmir, an Iraqi journalist who was resettled from Turkey to the USA

Geneva, 17 June 2016 - Jahmir* is a forty-one year old journalist from Iraq. Last year, together with his wife and four children, he was resettled from Turkey to the USA. ICMC assisted Jahmir and his family in their resettlement process. In Istanbul, they received medical examinations and cultural orientation classes at the Resettlement Support Center Turkey and Middle East, which ICMC operates in collaboration with the United States Government. Refugees in the resettlement process are invited to attend such classes in order to prepare for their new life as permanent citizens of the United States.

Jahmir, an Iraqi journalist who was resettled from Turkey to the USAJahmir during the cultural orientation class at the ICMC Resettlement Support Center in Istanbul. Photo: ICMC/ Nathalie Perroud Jahmir explained that he had applied for refugee status to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), because, as a journalist, it was no longer safe for him to work in his home country. “In Iraq, militia are constantly interfering with the press: journalists are not allowed to tell what is going on. If you belong to the right party and you say what the government wants to hear, then you can do your job. But if you are inquiring independently about the truth, it is impossible to work as a journalist. There is no freedom of press in Iraq.”

He explained that, back in Iraq, he tried to change his career and became a manager in a print house. “But things got even worse. I was threatened by the government”, Jahmir said. “After the elections in 2013-2014, journalists were forced to interview people with no involvement at all in politics and provide coverage of the religious majority which controls most of the country. The realities of minority groups were not reported. In 2013, I tried to interview people taking part in the uprising. My family received threats.”

Recalling the time while awaiting resettlement in Turkey, Jahmir said: “Life was not easy: we were not allowed to leave the city assigned to us, the waiting period between the different interviews of the resettlement process was quite long, and everything was so expensive, especially because we did not have any income, as we were not allowed to work. We really struggled to keep a positive mind.”

Talking about his new life in the USA, Jahmir said: “I feel grateful for the opportunity we had to be resettled here. My wife is now studying English, and my eldest son has made very good progress at school.” When asked about his personal plans, he answered: “I hope to be able to get a diploma as a journalist equivalent to the one I obtained in Iraq, or to pursue a new career as a lawyer. But first, I need to learn English well.”

Ali*, Jahmir’s eldest son, dreams of becoming an astronaut. Currently, Ali suffers from autism: he can write in English, but not in Arabic. When he was two years-old, back in Iraq, he saw a person being killed in front of him: he was so traumatized that he was severely affected in his ability to develop language skills.

*The name was changed to protect the person’s identity.