Haiffaa Ali escaped Iraq to join her daughter in Colorado, but the journey was heartbreaking.
First, she had to spend five years in Syria, and truth be told she never wanted to leave her home in Baghdad at all. Yes, Americans, not everyone wants to live here, even those with bombs going off all around them.
KVOD, Colorado’s voice of classical radio, began tracking refugees and came across her in February, a year after she arrived with her husband. What Haiffaa, 53, had to say took the interviewer and this writer by surprise.
“I am leave my country because of the war in my country, because what I see in my country make me scared,” she said. “I decided to leave this country, this is a sad decision, this is a difficult decision.”
She added, “Everywhere blow. I cannot go to chauffeur my family because everyone has gun in his hand. One kills the other. No government.”
No one can control the country and she lacked basic utilities, including water. Coming from a wealthy family this was hard to bear.
Her father was killed in his home during the war. “He is too old to be killed. She is half Sunni and half Shia. Asked how she felt during her years in Syria, “it was just a station to move to another place.”
She definitely did not want to come to the U.S. but her family had preceded her. Her husband had run afoul of Saddam Hussein.
“No, no,” she said with real gravitas.
“For many reasons … because America has Army in my country.” She had opposed American intervention. "Because America is in my country I don’t think I want to come to America. This is not my dream."
She began working with a group of women making jewelry, necklaces, and beads. Margot Potter, author of The Impatient Crafter, remembered Haiffaa’s words the first day she sold something.
“I have this pride, this feeling, and I can’t explain it. This eight dollars, it means everything right now. It tells me I can do something and make my own money. This is my first money I made. I can never spend this eight dollars. I have to keep it and show it — I must show it to the other women so they know how this feels and it is real.”
After a year here, she learned that America wasn’t made up entirely of Texans who'd “come to fight me.” She has three children, 27, 22, and 16. The two elder kids work.
“If my country is in peace I will go back. I leave behind me my house, my dreams. If I am in the best life in this country but it is not my country it is not Iraq… maybe I need to die in my country.”
On Sunday, while visiting Baghdad to see her father’s grave, a bomb killed her as she visited a travel agent.