by community members + aggregated stories with local interests and social impacts

Escaping homeland,
a refugee's story

By Israa Abdulmuttaleb

Blood, violence, and the sound of howling children who fear what comes next. That was part of Iraqi people’s daily lives, and my own. Not knowing where and when we would be killed. Thinking about the way we would die was one of our fears.

My name is Israa Abdulmuttaleb. I am 16 years old and a junior at Taylor Allderdice high school. I am originally from Iraq, but I lived most of my life in Syria. As an Iraqi citizen, I have tasted the bitterness of life from such a young age. My country has been destroyed by bloodshed, wars, and hate.

When I was 5 years old my family decided to leave Iraq to go to Syria because of the violence. It was frightening because people in our city started changing; you couldn’t really trust anyone. Shia and Sunni militias started sending messages that if people did not join them, it meant that they are against the Shia and Sunni and at that time individuals and their families would be in danger. They spray-painted threats on houses, planted car bombs and bombed schools.

When I first moved to Syria it felt like a dream that I didn’t want to end. I was really hoping that I would continue my education in peace, but I was wrong. When I was in the sixth grade, the Syrian Civil War broke out, bringing terror. My school was attacked by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and it was closed and reopened many times, because of the threats. ISIS believes that every school is pro government and that’s why most schools are targeted. I still remember when I told my father that I wanted to quit school because I was terrified from the way I will be killed or tortured. My father said, “You will never quit school. Education is your only weapon.”

For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth. (Surah al-Maaida, 5:32).

I wish it was a gunshot instead of torturing and raping us women who just want an education. ISIS is scared of educated people, especially women, because they will start questioning what ISIS does and why; that’s when they fail in explaining their huge lies. Educated people know right from wrong.

I wish people would realize that violence only creates violence, but some are either ignorant or too brainwashed to see the truth. ISIS puts children in camp from ages 5 to 16, similar to a school, that teaches them about their versions of “Islam”  and math. For example, an ISIS recruiter will write “1 gun + 1 gun = 2 guns.” After 16, the students carry guns and start fighting.

If the people who wanted to create more freedom in Syria gathered and talked about the issues peacefully, there wouldn’t be any war now.

The ways of humans are enigmatic. The reasons for one’s good-doing or wrongdoing is only known by that one human, but when a man no longer has their own conscience, they believe anything. They lose the ability to question and reason.

ISIS is a parasite among the body of Islam. It drills lies and invalid ideas of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.

Photo 1: My turquoise pendant reads, “There is no God but one.”

Photo 2: My mother, Wafaa, and I reunited with my sister, Sammar, in the United States on June 11, 2013. My father, Mohammed, and my brother, Muamaar, still live in Syria. We have not seen them in five years.

Photo 3: My morning routine.

As a first step for me to gain knowledge about what I want to do in the future, I applied twice and was accepted twice to Duquesne University’s Project SEED program in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. For my first application essay, I wrote about how chemical weapons were used in Iraq, how they made a lot of health problems, and how I want to help people who were affected by chemicals and war and conflict. Last year helped me to decide that this is what I want to major in at college and how I want to use my knowledge to help people around the world, so I wrote my second application essay about that.

My SEED project for Summer 2017 focused on understanding the structure of a protein called Serotonin Transporter. Serotonin plays an important role in appetite, maintaining homeostasis, and arranging human feelings, such as happiness. If we understand the structure of this transporter and how it undergoes allosteric changes, then we could provide a better understanding of its function, which can lead us to develop better medications for people who are suffering from depression.

“Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.” (Surah al-Baqara, 2:190)

I used to be scared of how I would be killed in Syria. But now I am not scared of anything. I just want to help. If we can’t help people, only bad things happen. Educating people is the best solution. I said to myself, maybe there is no hope in this world, but I need to work to do something about it. I hope in the future I can use my knowledge, my open-mindedness to change the lives of some people and help women whose rights have been stolen by ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, is the Hearer, the Knower. ” (Surah al-Anfal, 8:61)

Story Credits

Editor & Web Producer: Rebecca Peters
Photographer: Madeline Quasebarth 

Disclaimer: the narrative expressed in the article is solely those of the author(s).
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