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First Person: A San Diego Family Celebrates First Thanksgiving As American Citizens

Rayan Kaskos and his wife Zeena Faraj in their Spring Valley home on November 18, 2016. They are celebrating their first Thanksgiving as American citizens.
Michael Lipkin
Rayan Kaskos and his wife Zeena Faraj in their Spring Valley home on November 18, 2016. They are celebrating their first Thanksgiving as American citizens.

First Person: A San Diego Family's First Thanksgiving As American Citizens
First Person: A San Diego Family's First Thanksgiving As American Citizens GUESTS: Rayan Kaskos, former refugee Zeena Faraj, former refugee

If we're going to do something, if the fish water, let's make sure that water benefits the fish. Let's not just say without it was going to help but it didn't. ________________________________________ Along the north case the states for salmon recovery are matter of identity. Native tribal culture revolves around fish. Even so, this year the Outlook was bleak. At the annual salmon festival the tribe served beef. Fishery managers allowed them less than one salmon per person. ________________________________________ Our ancestors told us when the fish are gone so are people. We don't plan on going anywhere. ________________________________________ Other interests of water rights here also. Destroying dances that settle who gets what water. Now, once again, people in this basin are talking about how to share. I am Molly Peterson on the Klamath River. ________________________________________ With Thanksgiving approaching, many San Diego's are preparing to host elaborate dinners for friends and family. For some, the food is less important than being able to celebrate together without fear. As part of our ongoing first-person series, a Spring Valley family shares why they are especially thankful this Thanksgiving, their first as US citizens. ________________________________________ Moving to a city by the ocean was one of my biggest dreams. My home city has a river in it. However, it wasn't like the ocean. San Diego is by the ocean and it was one of my dreams to visit such a city. ________________________________________ My wife and I, whenever we go out and see scenery or go by the ocean, we tease each other. Is that real or are we dreaming? Are we really by the ocean? ________________________________________ Are we really this free and we can jump and run and see what we want to do here? It feels like a dream. ________________________________________ I became a citizen in October. ________________________________________ I became a citizen in October, 2016. Almost a month ago. Originally we are from a city called Mosul which is out of a rock. We felt like a brother to each other. However when the war came up and things escalated, a resurgence group started targeting Christian communities. For me, it wasn't only for that reason but because I worked with the American government, I worked for the US a ID. Imagine people living 35 years in the suburbs where they couldn't get access to hot water. With a gather the rainwater to survive over the summer. Imagine getting a water project to help these kind of people. You would feel proud. Proud that you're helping communities desperate for help. Imagine innovating a health center in a place where they don't have any healthcare. Imagine a school for kids who used to study in a building made out of mind..So USA tries to help people and that's how we did our work to help this community. I believe there always will be evil people who tried to block the good things from happening. Unfortunately evil people were able to control the situation and kick us out. ________________________________________ They targeted me. One of my staff, he came and said you should leave the city. You are on the list. And I said WishList? ________________________________________ And he said because you're working with the Americans. I try to flee to my wife was watching and trying to find a space where we could disappear so we could flee the house. It was noon when she just came and said they're not there, so just leave. I took my car when I left I traveled out of the city and that was the last day for me and my city. That was in late 2004. ________________________________________ Until now, my older son cannot forget these states. Sometimes he asked me mommy, do you remember when you hide me in your car and cover me with the close and the blankets? Tried to make me invisible and he said it was terrible, moment. I don't want him to remember that but that was the reality. ________________________________________ For Thanksgiving were going to provide a family and they're going to share with us Thanksgiving dinner. It is the first Thanksgiving in the United States. They came over last year as refugees also. ________________________________________ My kids don't like the turkey that much. We stuffed it with rice and raisins. We prepared the same dish, and I add sauce and did an apple pie also. We love this stuff. ________________________________________ It is time for you to gather with family and friends and share food and share the feeling of giving thanks especially for us. We think God every day brought us your and said of those from what we have been through and we thank God because we have our kids know and we are raising the other going to school and they have a good education and we predict they will have a good future. For me it is so special because now I am a citizen. I feel like this year will be different. I am happy to be a US citizen. I feel like this Thanksgiving is going to be, is going to mean a lot for me. I became an American and I really want to celebrate it as an American. ________________________________________ they are celebrating the first Thanksgiving as US citizens.

KPBS Midday Edition's First Person series tells the stories of average and not-so-average San Diegans in their own words. Their experiences, both universal and deeply personal, offer a unique lens into the news of the day.

Rayan Kaskos was born in Mosul, Iraq and lived there for more than 30 years. He worked as a trained engineer with the United Nations. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kaskos got a job with the U.S. Agency for International Development rebuilding schools, medical centers and other infrastructure. But by 2004, he was targeted by insurgents because of his work with U.S. troops and his religion: he and his family are Christian.


Kaskos fled to the city Erbil and eventually came to San Diego as a refugee in 2011 with his wife and two sons. Kaskos and his wife, Zeena Faraj, have celebrated Thanksgiving for years, but this will be their first as U.S. citizens. They both became citizens last month.

As part of our ongoing First Person series, Kaskos and Faraj share why they're especially thankful this Thanksgiving.

Corrected: October 5, 2021 at 11:10 AM PDT
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