This weekend the last American troops left Iraq. But for Leyla the war isn't over.
“It gives me chills when my mother calls me or when I hear her voice,” she says. “And when my husband's father calls, he gets off the phone and says ‘I'll call him later, I don't feel like talking.'”
An Iraqi refugee who now resides in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, Leyla is one of 60,000 Iraqis who came to the United States as refugees since the American invasion in 2003. For her, the destabilizing effects of the war will continue. It's hard to say when Iraq might be safe enough for her and her family to begin considering a return.
Leyla, 37, is a journalist who currently works as a translator for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which has helped to resettle over 1,000 Iraqis in the United States and other countries by providing over $3 million in free legal services. Her story of coming to America is an uncommon one among Iraqi refugees, as she accepted a marriage proposal from an American journalist after working closely with him as a translator and driver for members of the American media in Baghdad.
“We were almost kidnapped together and almost shot at many times,” she says. “That left us to become very close to each other. We would come back to our office after covering a bombing, talk about the pieces of dead bodies we saw, then sit and weep over why that was happening before we go back to be objective and write our stories.”
She reports that marrying an American greatly facilitated the process of coming to the U.S., although it still took about a year for her to receive the fianc