Saturday, June 26, 2010

A refugee radiologist: perspective for the apathetic, Part I

As a parent, I want nothing more than the health and happiness of my children.  I do not want them to suffer.  I want to give them more than was given to me, which was more than was given my father, and so forth.  I also want them to understand the value of work, and the virtue of self-preservation.  I want them to be happy, but I do not want them to be apathetic; I want them engaged in their lives.  Nothing engenders responsibility and ambition like suffering and necessity, so how do I teach well-fed children to be hungry, without taking away their bread?  I find this to be the modern American paradox.  How can we develop entrepreneurs and inventors who grow up in the age of Paris Hilton?

It takes discipline, undoubtedly.  I am optimistic I can lead my boys by words and examples, but I stole these lessons; some them from Dr. Fajal.  Yesterday's post tells of this work to place HCN (host country nationals) after their discharge from the hospital.  I did not, however, allude to the path that led him back to Iraq, as an American contract worker.  I decided to provide a drastically truncated narrative of this road over the next 2 blogs... 

In 1998 when the strains of the western embargo on Saddam's Iraq revealed a hopeless future for those wise enough to see it, and brave enough to act on it, Dr. Fajal and his wife made the decision to leave Baghdad.  He could not emigrate, sell his home and more to Jordan or Egypt as any Ba'athist intelligence officials who sensed this plan would seize his assets and confine him, or worse.  He knew his family's departure would have to be surreptitious; that he would leave his life as a prominent physician, all of his extended family and friends, his home and his assets, with the exception of what could be carried on his back.  His children went to school and returned with news from their father that they were leaving within the hour to go on a vacation to Jordan.  They packed accordingly for a week's vacation to Jordan.

They ultimately arrived in Turkey, north of Kurdistan, knowing no Turks or Turkish, without work or a place to stay.  Dr. Fajal and his family lived on savings as he took menial jobs to help supplement expenses during the next several months for their asylum application to be processed.  At the end of 8 months an order for deportation arrived, and the family had six days to determine where they would pick up and settle.  They applied for asylum in Syria, but as the border was closed, they had to await for approval from the Syrian embassy in Ankara.  On the last day prior to their ominous deportation back to Iraq, they received permission from the Syrians, and made their way toward Damascus.  

They arrived in the Syrian coastal city of Banayas on the day of the monthly ship to Libya.  His family had to make a decision just then: were they to emigrate to Libya, or make attempts to reach America... (to be continued tomorrow)

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