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U.S. Combat Mission Ends In Iraq, But Thousands Of Refugees Remain In U.S.

Audio

Aired 9/2/10

The U.S. combat mission in Iraq has ended, but thousands of Iraqi refugees remain scattered around the nation, including in San Diego County. Many refugees are afraid to return to Iraq, and worry their country isn’t ready to take charge of its future.

The U.S. combat mission in Iraq has ended, but thousands of Iraqi refugees remain scattered around the nation, including in San Diego County. Many refugees are afraid to return to Iraq, and worry their country isn’t ready to take charge of its future.

Four Iraqis (Left to right: Camilia Sadik, Aws Abdullah, Kusay Alsafi and Arkan Somo) talk on KPBS' These Days about the challenges facing Iraq on September 1, 2010 in San Diego, California.
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Above: Four Iraqis (Left to right: Camilia Sadik, Aws Abdullah, Kusay Alsafi and Arkan Somo) talk on KPBS' These Days about the challenges facing Iraq on September 1, 2010 in San Diego, California.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq in 2003, millions of Iraqis have fled the country. Many have relocated to El Cajon. The Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego estimates there are 30,000-40,000 Iraqis in the region.

Aws Abdullah moved from Iraq to San Diego in 2009. He works as a volunteer with Kurdish Human Rights Watch in El Cajon. Abdullah said he witnessed firsthand the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Abdullah said even after U.S. troops move out, the battle will continue. "Now we’re in a transition period, so there’s a lot of bad things in Iraq now," said Abdullah. "Going back is not an option. We have to go through it, we have to bear it, and we have to emerge stronger," he urged.

Abdullah said Iraqis are struggling with democracy because they lived under dictatorship for so long. He said the U.S. is needed longer to help stabilize the Iraqi government.

Arkan Somo, member of San Diego's Chaldean community and business owner, said he left Iraq in 1982. Somo said the Iraqi leadership is too inexperienced to move the country forward. "Here we are after an election, and they’re still debating and arguing and trying to figure out 'how can we put this government together?' They are young," Somo explained. "It’s like having a two-year-old and you expect them to run a marathon."

Many Iraqi refugees said they carry deep emotional scars caused by years of war. Now they said they're entering a time of great uncertainty.

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