Iraqi Expatriates in Jordan Recount Personal Stories It might sound like an unlikely hangout for Iraqi expatriates, but the World Donut cafe in Amman, Jordan, attracts Iraqi doctors, teachers, and intellectuals. Renee Montagne speaks with two exiles from Iraq about their experiences fleeing from home.
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Iraqi Expatriates in Jordan Recount Personal Stories

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Iraqi Expatriates in Jordan Recount Personal Stories

Iraqi Expatriates in Jordan Recount Personal Stories

Iraqi Expatriates in Jordan Recount Personal Stories

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It might sound like an unlikely hangout for Iraqi expatriates, but the World Donut cafe in Amman, Jordan, attracts Iraqi doctors, teachers, and intellectuals. Renee Montagne speaks with two exiles from Iraq about their experiences fleeing from home.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

And I'm John Ydstie sitting in for Steve Inskeep.

In Baghdad today at least four Iraqi civilians died in insurgent attacks and U.S. troops staged raids on suspected al-Qaida hideouts. As the violence in Iraq increases, so does the flow of Iraqis out of the country. Many from the professional classes have fled to neighboring Jordan.

MONTAGNE: It was evening yesterday in the capital Amman, when we reached a group of them by phone at a café popular with Iraqi who have been forced to leave home. Two shared their stories with us.

AJAY (Iraqi Refugee): You can call me Ajay. And I'm a TV director originally and a media expert.

MONTAGNE: And when and under what circumstances did you leave Iraq?

AJAY: Less than four months ago I had to leave Iraq after I was kidnapped for 11 days simply because I worked with the Americans.

MONTAGNE: And what happened to you while you were being held?

AJAY: Oddly enough, I was well treated. I mean they gave me food. Of course, psychologically they practiced a lot of new technology upon me, but in general, physically, I was not hurt.

MONTAGNE: And who were they?

AJAY: They claimed they were the Sunni mujahideen, but the way they acted, I mean supposedly the mujahideen are fundamentalist Muslims and, you know, when they drink and take off girls and stuff, I don't think that they would be real Muslims. They were a gang. I mean they did not belong to any of the militias.

MONTAGNE: Why did they release you?

AJAY: I simply - my family paid for that. I had to pay $25,000 as a ransom. After I was released I left Iraq within three days not because I was kidnapped but after that everybody in my neighborhood knew that my family does have the money, although we actually had to borrow most of it. But that made me a walking target to all kinds of gangsters and militia.

MONTAGNE: So you're in Jordan on your own. Is your family back in Baghdad?

AJAY: No, actually I brought my wife and two - at that time I had only one baby girl with me, and the second actually was born here in Amman.

MONTAGNE: Ajay, thank you for speaking with us.

AJAY: You are most welcome.

MONTAGNE: And would you mind passing the phone to someone else there?

AJAY: Sure thing.

SAUSAN(ph) (Iraqi Refugee): Renee?

MONTAGNE: Yes, hi, Renee.

SAUSAN: How are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you.

SAUSAN: Yeah. My name is Sausan. I work with the MNFI.

MONTAGNE: And MNFI is Multinational...

SAUSAN: National Forces in Iraq.

MONTAGNE: Multinational Forces in Iraq.

SAUSAN: Yeah. I worked with them for three years, but last year I received a threat from mujahideen army.

MONTAGNE: What was the threat?

SAUSAN: You know, the threat was horrible. If you read it, believe me, you can't - we couldn't wait until the next day. The next day we leave.

MONTAGNE: Did you leave by yourself or with your family?

SAUSAN: No, I came with my family. I am married; my husband is a physician. And I have a daughter - she is 28 years old, and a son, 15 years old. We decided to come here because my boss in the Green Zone, he advised me to go to Jordan because it's safe for me to stay here. But very difficult to live here, very difficult to afford living because it's too expensive. Even I can't afford my son's school here. You know, we are living here like refugees.

MONTAGNE: What would have to happen in Iraq for you to be able, in your own mind, to return there?

SAUSAN: Well, I think if they tried to curb the sectarian violence and they will stop these terrorist acts and killing the innocent people, I think at this time I will be ready to go back and will not be afraid or targeted. You know, when the invasion happened, we thought that Iraq will be New York, like New York, you know? We will have democracy, we can express freely without any restriction or fear. You know, we built a dream but we didn't expect this to happen.

MONTAGNE: Well thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

SAUSAN: You're welcome, ma'am. Nice to meet you.

MONTAGNE: Nice...

SAUSAN: If you are one day in Jordan, you will be welcome here.

MONTAGNE: Two Iraqis who fled to Jordan, Ajay and Sausan, both requested we not use their last names for the security of family back home.

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