The “What Happened?” Project

It has been more than a decade since the US invaded Iraq, and almost three years since it finally withdrew its troops. But since the early days of the invasion Iraqis, especially those who had academic and intellectual backgrounds or were professionals working for government agencies have been targeted and assassinated by the militant forces that came after the U.S. invasion. Such militant forces were AL Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, both shia militias that were trained to target and assassinate Iraqi intellectuals and minorities all around the country. This resulted in large numbers of Iraqis fleeing their country and seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Mahdi Army fighters in Iraq

Mahdi Army fighters in Iraq

As of 2010, the estimated number of Iraqi refugees has mounted to 4 million refugees, most of whom lived in Syria and Jordan after escaping Iraq. With limited ways of earning a sustainable living, Iraqi refugees endured tough living conditions. In some cases both parents were often working in menial jobs not related to their original professions in order to provide for their families.

Starting in 2004, the UNHCR in collaboration with International Organization of Migration (IOM), began helping Iraqis to resettle in the US and Europe in hopes of finding a better future where they could use their experience and educational backgrounds to restart a new life  far away from war zones. Since then, almost thirty-thousand Iraqis have been resettled in the US. They have  settled mostly in El Cajon, CA, Sacramento, CA, San Jose, CA, Tucson, Arizona, and Dallas, TX, to name a few places.

An Iraqi Family applying for resettlement at an UNHCR center

An Iraqi Family applying for resettlement at an UNHCR center in Syria

Citizens Reach Out launched the “What Happened?” Project to document the stories of these refugees and preserve their journey from home to the country that invaded their homeland.

Their stories are compelling, powerful and often heartbreaking. CRO records the raw tales of mothers, fathers and sons who saw the horrid images of war and lived under skies that were lit by jet fighter airplanes and woke up to the sounds of explosions. Some of them lost a parent, a sibling, a cousin, and they all lost their homes.

The “What Happened?” Project is a small window to the big world of the Iraqi refugee crises, so won’t you take a moment and look through this window to learn about the tragedy that was created by this war?



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