March 7, 2011

Iraqi Refugee Speaks About Journey to U.S.

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Mazin Kadhim, a 24-year-old refugee from Baghdad, implored Cornell students to pressure the American government to reform his country’s political system in his Monday lecture “Seeking a Voice: An Iraqi Perspective on Iraq” at Rockefeller Hall.

“Today, from the face of the Iraqi people, I ask you all for help,” Kadhim said, speaking through a translator.

Kadhim migrated to America seven months ago. While in Iraq, he lost two uncles, a cousin and eight friends, and he came “very close to death” himself. Years of oppressive regimes and international warfare in his country left him “dead without my family and my country,” he said.

Jake Arem ’11, vice-president of Tzedek — a Jewish social justice organization — was studying abroad in Jordan last year when he first met Kadhim, who was helping run a school for Iraqi refugee children. He said he brought Kadhim to campus because raising awareness among Cornell students was crucial to helping the Iraqis.

“I think it’s really important for us as Cornell students and Americans to know about this because we hear about it every day, but we don’t know what the Iraqi people think about Iran, the American government or the sanctions,” Arem said. “Madzin has an important story to tell.”

During the lecture, Kadhim traced his life in Iraq, explained the history of Iraq and discussed the problems faced by the Iraqi people.

“I die when I see politicians sitting in castles while my family is humiliated every day,” Kadhim said. “I die after seven years of liberation when my friends are homeless in neighboring countries; they don’t have electricity and are deprived of the simplest services, while at the same time, our government spends close to $400 billion. How much do the politicians want?”

Tracing the roots of his country’s turbulent political history, Kadhim said Iraq was “unfortunately, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world.”

Original Author: Akane Otani