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Charlottesville IRC Refugees Speak Out on Journey to U.S. Citize - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Charlottesville IRC Refugees Speak Out on Journey to U.S. Citizenship

Posted: Updated: Jul 04, 2014 03:14 AM
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va (WVIR) - Dozens of people from around the world officially became American citizens at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Friday morning.

For one pair of refugees from Iraq, this Independence Day marks a new chapter in their lives - after decades of loss. Shoeab Ammar and his wife Khadijah Nasar have spent the last five years working for the freedoms that come with a United States citizenship. They hope the status can eventually help bring long-lost family to visit their new home.

“Fourth of July, 2014 - it means my freedom day in my life.  This day will be the end of suffering for 24 years,” Ammar said.

Nasar said, “For me, it's a big day in my life.”

It may be one of the happiest days for Ammar and Nasar, because they have endured more hardship than most people can imagine.  The terror started one early summer morning in 1990.

Ammar said, “Second of August, 1990 – 2:30 a.m. Iraqi army invaded Kuwait and it changed everything in my life.  They steal my house, they steal my gold, which I collected for 24 years.”

The invasion spiraled into months of the family just fighting to survive.

“Then the Gulf War happened at 16, 17 January 1991,” Ammar said.  “Me and my wife and my kids we went down the basement 42 days until the war finished up.”

After the dark days in Kuwait, the couple relocated for their safety - but not before they were separated from their oldest daughter in 1992.

The pair began rebuilding their lives in Baghdad until another war broke out - destroying everything they had for a second time and pulling the family apart once again in 2001.

Nasar said, “The only thing that makes me sad – just separated from my daughters, my family also.”

“I am free, I am happy, I am excited, I cannot tell you how much I feel by that but I still have part of my heart there,” Ammar said.

Ammar and Nasar moved to the United States in 2008, finally finding success with help from the International Rescue Committee.

“From zero, now we are good.  We have cars, we have house, we have jobs and we build our life again,” Ammar said.

The couple hopes their citizenship will make reuniting with their girls - who now both live in Jordan - much easier.

Ammar said, “The time has come to end my suffering, the time has come to see my daughters. Since the Gulf War and the Iraqi war, it's the time to end all this.”

The pair did immigrate to America with their son and youngest daughter.

Ammar works for Aramark in Charlottesville, mainly helping with catering services at the University of Virginia. He and Nasar are very excited about their new home in Gordonsville.
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