Arts & Life

In My Country

Sewing Circle Helps Refugees Adjust to Life in the U.S.

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Mabi and Kaafiya

Mabi (foreground) and her friend, Kaafiya, say the war brings back painful memories from Afghanistan. Photos by Ketzel Levine, NPR News hide caption

toggle caption Photos by Ketzel Levine, NPR News

Generose, right, is a seamstress from Burundi, and supports the U.S. war in Iraq. hide caption

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A sewing circle made up of refugee women from around the world has been meeting regularly in Portland, Ore., for 3 years. The event is organized by the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). The women gather to share techniques, stories, and support each other as they adjust to life in the United States. At the latest meeting, in the back room of a public library, a few of them discussed their feelings about the war in Iraq with NPR's Ketzel Levine.

Mabi (she asked that only her first name be used) is from Afghanistan. She worries about the women and children of Iraq who will lose their husbands and fathers. "The cruel people," she says, "may God take them from this world. I hate to see the things of war happen to innocent people. The most expensive thing in the world is a human life."

Her friend Kaafiya (again, first name only) does not believe the United States will find Saddam Hussein, just as it has not found Osama bin Laden. But she is certain that innocent people will be killed. "I don't want to watch the news," she says, "it reminds me of my own country. It's so depressing, a whole country in flames."

Generose, from Burundi, is one of the only women in the sewing circle who thinks the war is justified. And she argues that the United States shouldn't stop there. "When they finish with Iraq," she says, "let them go to other countries to make peace. The U.S. is powerful. They can bring peace wherever they want."

The sewing circle's youngest member is Samia. She and her mother, Mabi, left Afghanistan two years ago. "I think Americans have soft hearts," says Samia, "but I do not think the government is good. Instead of trying to solve things in Iraq, I believe they are just trying to become more powerful. Saddam will hide. And the U.S. will take control."



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