November 29, 2020

A refugee’s story

Tharwat Ramadan displays a picture of two friends, with whom he was abducted in Baghdad. His friends were shot and killed for failing to pay ransom. PHOTO BY ALEX NASH

The Center for International Education (CIE) hosted Mark Akers from Oasis International as part of the International Studies Symposium Series on Feb. 21.

The symposium was held from 12-1 p.m., in the Emerson Library Conference Room.

“This event is to show students that St. Louis has many refugees and they should get involved to help them,” CIE graduate assistant Lauren Huffman said.

Akers said Americans should get involved and welcome the refugees into their families. “So many refugees are traumatized and have emotional issues,” Akers said. “So many of them heal when they connect with an American family.”

A refugee from Iraq who has lived in St. Louis for two years, Tharwat Ramadan, told the story of his journey from Iraq to America.

Ramadan he worked 12 hours a day at an engineering company  in Baghdad to support his wife and two children.

“I was soon kidnapped for two days by terrorists, who thought I was working for the United States,” Ramadan said. “I was tied up, blindfolded and placed in the back of a car.”

Ramadan said he was taken to a strange location where he was beaten and kicked. One of the terrorists hit him with the back of a gun and injured his eye.

The terrorists then took him to another location, where they told him to close his eyes and count to 10.

“I was so scared, I counted to 60 even though I heard the car driving off,” Ramadan said. “When I opened my eyes, I thanked God to be alive.”

With the help of a taxi driver, he was taken back home to his family. His father told him to get out of Iraq with his family. With a loan from a family friend, Ramadan and his family first went to Jordan, where they were denied entry without a visa. A driver had to take them to Syria, where they stayed in a refugee camp for 10 days. They lived in Syria for four years.

Ramadan’s wife applied for entry into the U.S. at the United Nations building in Syria. After the third interview, the family was accepted.

With the help of a Catholic charity, the family settled in St. Louis, in a small apartment on Chippewa Street. The only appliances the apartment had was a refrigerator and a stove.

“The apartment was full of roaches and mice, and I had to get my family out of there,” Ramadan said.

Ramadan broke his leg and had no place to recuperate because his apartment did not have any beds. Ramadan emailed Oasis, who said they would help the family with their needs. He said his life changed when he met Akers.

Akers and his associates brought Ramadan and his family furniture and asked if they needed anything else.

Ramadan said he was amazed that Akers came because it was the holiday season.

Akers wanted Ramadan to get a new apartment. With the help of Ramadan’s Iraqi friend, the family moved to a better apartment.

“My family was so happy, “ Ramadan said. “I even invited Mark over for dinner and now I call him my brother. I remembered when I called my dad in Iraq and I said I have a brother, a family. An American family.”

 

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