Tuesday, June 19, 2007

'How could you leave me behind?'

Hannah Allam's heartbreaking account of an Iraqi whose three-year service as a military translator left him abandoned by the United States and a refugee in Syria is the kind of powerful, personal journalism our correspondents are known for.

It comes across with additional power when you hear Mohamed Abdul Kareem tell the story in his own words at this narrated slide show that traces his Army experience.

From Hannah's piece:

His pretty 25-year-old fiancee was killed in crossfire between the Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgents as she traveled alone in a taxi from her house to his parents' place on Dec. 21, 2006. Zena, a Shiite he'd been smitten with since college, died when a stray bullet struck her in the head, Abdul Kareem said.

"After I buried her, I couldn't stand Iraq. I promised myself I would never go back to that place," he said. "I'm starting to worry about my humanity. I feel burned inside, but I can't react. I'm a stone."

After the traditional three days of mourning, a distraught Abdul Kareem fled to Syria in January. His life in Iraq was over, he said, and his last hope was to win asylum and move permanently to the United States. For the third year in a row, he's entered the U.S. green-card lottery.

"I still think Iraq will rise from all this, but I don't think it will ever be my home again," he said. "If my neighbors, the people in my tribe, knew what I did, I would be killed right away. I'm not a traitor - I'm a patriot - but my country has rejected me for working with Americans.

"And the Americans, at the end of the year, their promises went nowhere," he said, referring to the rotating units he'd worked with. "They'd give us a certificate and leave."

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