Photo credit: Facebook/Ahmed Badr
May 19, 2008 was the start of a new chapter in the United States for Ahmed and his family. Ahmed, his younger sister and parents were resettled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota after fleeing the war in Iraq.
“It took us four planes to get here! We went from Damascus to Budapest, Budapest to New York and then New York to Chicago and finally to South Dakota,” recalls Ahmed.
Ahmed and his family first found refuge in Syria in 2006, “On July 26th, 2006, our house was bombed. About a couple weeks later, my dad said we were getting out of there. During those couple of weeks, we moved around and that was the beginning of several relocations over the course of six years. I never thought of the distance of those relocations, I always thought that we were going to a place nearby.”
Ahmed was just 7 years old when he experienced displacement for the first time and didn’t always understand the significance of it. “It was exciting for me because I got to see a place I’ve never seen before. So whenever we would stop somewhere to get food or to rest I would always be really excited because I love travelling in any form. I remember that’s when my love for travelling started.”
Last year, Ahmed became a U.S. citizen and found himself questioning his identity. . “For the past few months, I have been trying to really identify. We have a debate at school and I am trying to write my speech about identity crisis. I’ve realized time and time again that you must take the positive between the two identities and try to put them together to create something that is truly unique and that works for you. I realized that I can really embrace the duality of my experiences.”
Ahmed shares his experiences and journey from Iraq to Syria to the United States in his recently finished memoir. “The book was first to write a testament of the struggles that my family and I have overcome. I wanted to write so I would never forget where I came from, what I witnessed and what I hope to achieve. But I think the biggest thing I want to accomplish with my book is to change that narrative that I have faced ever since I came to America: that Middle Easterners, whether they are refugees or migrants, are terrorists. I think there is no better time than now to get my story out there and put a face to the word Muslim. Much of what is happening now in the media is that people are being dehumanized. I hope individuals who read my story will realize that here is a kid who was a refugee and here’s what he did with his experiences.”