The Amazing Contribution of Two Young Sisters
“Iraq was like a jail, not a country” under Saddam Hussein, according to Rana, a young Iraqi woman. For Rana and her sister, Farah, the toppling of Saddam’s government and the American invasion were welcomed. Soon after the invasion, Rana and Farah, both in their twenties, graduated from a University in Iraq with degrees in computer science; however, they quickly realized that the changes brought by the war had altered their chosen paths.
As one of only two Sunni families left living in a Shi’a dominated city in Southern Iraq, Rana and Farah’s family was threatened with death in 2003 by a Shi’a militia. Unsure of how to react to the threat, the family continued to live in their home until the insurgents burned part of their property. Rana and Farah moved to another neighborhood in the area to remain safe, however they were repeatedly threatened at school for their religious beliefs. During this time insurgents kidnapped Farah’s fiancé because of his affiliation with a U.S. company. In 2004, Farah and her family were shown a video of the brutality he faced and he was believed to be killed soon after. The war and the threat from the Shi’a militias in their area changed Rana and Farah’s view of Iraq, their career paths and, ultimately, their lives.
Despite their family’s insecurity and personal trauma, Rana and Farah saw the American invasion as a way to help the Iraqi people and sought to assist the U.S. by becoming interpreters. As two Muslim women, their decision was dangerous. In a country where family tradition and honor are of the utmost importance, these women were seen to be traitors by the Shi’a insurgents. In the months after they were employed by the U.S. Army and by U.S. companies, their family was threatened again and the women were moved to the American base for safety. During their work with the U.S, Rana and Farah were threatened three times and a bounty was put out on Rana. After learning that two sisters working at the same site were killed, Rana and Farah realized just how precarious their situation was.
After living in terror for four years, the sisters left Iraq for Egypt in November 2006. Realizing they could never return to Iraq, Rana and Farah wrote to the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies in desperation. Holland + Knight LLP, the List Project’s founding legal partner, worked tirelessly to help them navigate the labyrinthine resettlement process.
In May 2008, the sisters arrived in America. While the resettlement process was long and frustrating, Farah says, “that there is no way to count the favors [The List Project] did for me and my sister. He was the one who stand for us during the hardest times back in Egypt when everybody else ignored our problem…basically, because of the List Project I am safe.”
In spite of the personal sacrifices these women made, both are proud to have worked with the U.S. and have started to make a life here in America. The List Project partners with Upwardly Global, an NGO helping highly qualified immigrants find jobs, which helped both women find work here in the U.S. Through this connection, Rana and Farah have both found jobs working for the U.S. government as translators and media analysts. These sisters are a stunning example of the contribution that Iraqis have made to the U.S. In Iraq and in America, they have worked to help us despite the personal trauma they endured.