Oral History Project

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Oral History Project

My oral history project is about Arab immigrants into the United States and their experience before and after settlement. Ayaan Mohammed is a 32-year-old male who migrated from Iraq to settle in the United States following a sponsorship program that saw him advance his education in the States. Ayaan moved into the United States year 2001 in August, almost a month before the September 11 attack that saw hundreds of innocent people die.

The September 11 attack, which is also referred to as 9/11 were a series of four coordinated attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the united states on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. During the attack, around 2977 citizens of the United States died along with 19 hijackers. It is around this time that Ayaan happened to be coming to the United States, unaware of what was going to happen next. Just like everyone, “I came to the United States with greater hopes of a better life, free from coercion and away from the brutal Taliban.” However, the expectations were not fulfilled as just less than a month; the terrorist attacks which happened to be the largest attack in the U.S soil changed everything. The attack was carried out by Islamic extremists and considering that most of the people who are associated with the Islamic religion are treated as terrorists, Ayaan was not an exception, “I was stopped several times by the police, searched and questioned and considering that I was new to the States, I knew very little leave alone my staggering English, which made it difficult to communicate”. According to Ayaan, it was difficult for anyone to believe that he is not a terrorist, especially on a time like that where the country was mourning a great loss.

Ayaan was born in 1987 in Bagdad, Iraq. “I am the third-born son to Abdul Hakim and Fatima Hakim, in a family of four- two boys and two girls.” Ayaan’s family is not well up, and this means that he had to struggle to make life ends meet. He struggled to do manual labor in Iraq’s capital. Ayaan says that “Growing up in the streets is a tempting situation, especially if you come from a not well up family, you are tempted to join the Taliban at a young age and go fighting, but I thank Allah I have made it this far.” Ayaan moved won a scholarship into the United States to pursue medicine, which he aimed to get back to his country and help his people, but this changed and sought employment in the United States due to reasons that he couldn’t disclose.

The September 11 attack was a life-changing event not only to Ayaan’s life but to many other American citizens. For Ayaan, the horrifying experiences that he passed through almost prompted him to go back to his country, but he did not give up, fighting hard to win back the trust he had earned for the last one month. After the attack, both the American government and the American citizens perceived people of Islamic religion to be terrorists, and this meant that they had to be segregated and provoked by the police in accordance with the ongoing investigations of possible suspects in contact with the Al-Qaeda before and after the attack. Since then, Ayaan was frustrated by the negative profiling that made every Islamic person a suspect. He is, however, happy not to have ended up in custody.

During the interview, I sympathized with Ayaan for the misfortunes that he had to pass through before settling and gaining trust and confidence that he could settle in the United States and continue with his education without coercion or profiling simply because of his religion. I, however, learned of the hard life that he had endured back in Baghdad before winning the scholarship to the U.S, the temptations of joining terrorist groups, which proves that as a young man living in the Islamic states, it is more of a temptation. I do agree with Ayaan that some of the time, people judge others wrongly due to things that they are not even aware of, but on the other hand, I can say that it is difficult to judge someone by facial look.

In conclusion, the issue of terrorism has reshaped many people’s lives, including Ayaan’s in that he vowed not to go back to his country as he would go to assist the same men who almost caused a misfortune in his life. If the attack wasn’t executed, Ayaan could have had a smooth transition, a better place than home. Through Ayaan’s experience, I can say that I had a better understanding of United States history and appreciate the struggles people go through in their lives.

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