Transcript for the Piece Audio version of Iraqi war translator struggles with new life in America
Iraqi war translator finds a new home in Seatac, Washington
0104AK_refugee.wav (MP3) (JPG) 3:28 Feature 01/04/08 Anna King/ CD
LEDE: The Bush administration has vowed to resettle 12-thousand Iraqi refugees in the United States by next Fall. But that goal is proving difficult to meet, in large part because of extensive background checks. A handful of Iraqi refugees have cut through the federal bureaucracy and now make their homes in the Northwest. Correspondent Anna King brings us the story of a former Iraqi interpreter, whose life was turned upside down by a bomb. (SOQ 3:28 plus music to 3:44)
STORY: There?s a video Hider Nhil watches over and over again on his laptop computer.
SOUND: AMB- War video
A plume of angry flames rocks the skyline. It looks like an action movie with great special effects. But this bomb was real.
NHIL: The shrapnels hit me in this moment, I felt like something is cutting me to pieces. And it?s burning it?s really burning.
The day was April-second-2005. Nhil was working as an interpreter for the U.S. forces in Iraq.
NHIL: It was my mistake I didn?t wear my Kevlar and my vest. I forgot them in the Humvee. And I was very, very lucky to stay alive first thing.
Nhil was treated for almost two and half years for his injuries. The majority of his treatment and seven surgeries were done in Jordan. While there, he got news that many of his interpreter friends from his hometown of Karbala had been assassinated.
NHIL: It really became crazy. I know at least 15 person and they are friends of mine and they are interpreters all of them got killed. All of them. The last one before I came to America by one month. He was my best friend. They killed him.
Fearing for his own life if he returned to Iraq, Nhil applied for refugee status. He came to the United States last September with two suitcases and 800 dollars. His apartment here in Seatac, Washington, is spare. There?s a futon. A table. A few straight back chairs. All donated.
As for life in America?
NHIL: I really, really, really get surprised and get disappointed. A lot.
Like the time he went to buy cigarettes from a neighborhood store at night.
NHIL: And five groups stopped me in the street, five groups. Do you want something do you want drug, do you want heroine do you want woman do you want anything. And the police just passing the police saw them and they do nothing. And it was like OK, what is that? Is this America?
As for what?s going on back home?
NHIL: I am angry ?cause we lost our country. I am angry because they are not taking the right decisions. I am angry because they are killing each other.
He tries not to watch too much news, but sometimes he calls his family after seeing something on TV. It?s hard to be just an observer -- an outsider.
NHIL: I?m angry because they are letting everyone controlling them. I am angry ?cause they are not ruling their country. I am angry for many things. I am sad. Of course I am sad.
But there are now more pressing matters for Nhil to deal with. His money runs out next month when his public assistance and food stamps stop. Nhil is looking for a job, so he can start his new American life. But he is still closely tied to Iraq with memories and small scraps of culture like his cell phone ring.
SOUND: AMB ? phone song and Nhil talking
I?m Anna King reporting.
Copyright 2007 Northwest Public Radio
(0104AK_refugee.jpg) Cutline: Hider Nhil, 27, of Karbala, Iraq, prepares chicken for dinner in his Seatac, Washington apartment.