Eleven Years Later: Sharing My Story for the First Time

Reminiscing about my youth in Iraq

On the evening of March 19, 2003, my family and I were gathered in our home in southern Baghdad watching a government spokesman on television announce that another war was approaching. Just after 9:30pm Baghdad time, we heard the first missiles fly over our rooftops and detonate nearby seconds later.

Sounds like a cool action movie right?! Not really. At that time, I was only 13 years old, and it was the most terrifying event that I had ever experienced. I still remember that night like it was yesterday. Every time I heard an explosion, I would hide under my blanket as though that would be enough to protect me.

What I did not know at the time was that the worst was yet to come.

Subsequent days, months, and years brought further destruction and chaos to Iraq, and soon spread across the region. The escalating violence embraced by sectarian extremists, growing violations of human rights by nearly every party involved in the conflict, and a slow and insufficient humanitarian response to those who were forced to flee their homes only made things worse.

The turmoil soon had its toll on my family. In November 2006, my life was turned upside down. My father was kidnapped on his way back from work, and that morning was the last time I saw him. I did not only lose a father, but also my mentor, hero, and best friend.

Today, 11 years after the war started, not much has improved and Iraq continues to deteriorate. How bad is it? The first week of March 2014 witnessed the loss of more than 400 lives to violence in Iraq. That is in just ONE week! Moreover, the UN reports that nearly 1.5 million Iraqis remain displaced, including tens of thousands fleeing recent violence in Anbar Province.

Since I arrived to the United States in 2008, I learned that this is a country where people can make their dreams come true. I have been dreaming for a long time of connecting Iraqis with Americans and rebuilding the relationship between our two countries. At the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), I finally have the opportunity to do so.
I have the chance to connect and work with caring individual like you to make Iraq a safer place; a world where children do not have to grow up without a father.

While some in Washington DC would like to conveniently forget what happened to me and my family and countless fellow Iraqis over the past 11 years, you have not. That gives me hope.

My old man always told me: “Taif, whenever you are facing a problem, do what you can to fix it. But if you cannot fix the problem by yourself, remember that there are always many people who will help you.” So, thanks to supporters like you, today we have more than 11,300 signatures on our petition at Change.org to “put Iraq back on the agenda” and urge President Barack Obama to support a clear, long-term strategy for peace in Iraq and the region. To correspond with the 11th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad on April 9, EPIC is preparing to deliver that message directly to the White House and Capitol Hill.

Now is a critical time for you and I to ensure that President Obama and Congress remember America’s enduring responsibility to do what it can to promote peace and heal the wounds of war. Since the President strongly believes in community organizing, we hope that he will seriously consider our message, especially if its backed by strong numbers. That’s where you come in. I would like to ask you to help us gain 4,000 more signatures before April 9th.

This week’s anniversary must be a reminder to all that the crisis is not over, and violations of human rights continue immeasurably. The international community must do more to help rebuild a safer and more stable Iraq that can provide all Iraqis with a better life.

Your support is enormously important to me and to EPIC’s mission. Therefore, I ask you today to not only sign, but to also share EPIC’s petition with your family and friends. The more supporters we have, the stronger and better equipped we become to further our goal of peace in Iraq.

Here are three ways you can help:

(1) Share and promote our petition via Change.org

(2) “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

(3) Help us bring peace to Iraq, DONATE HERE

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