When Nailaa gives birth to her fourth child this summer, it will be the first member of her family to be born in the United States. More importantly, it will be the first member of the family to start life in a peaceful land. Nailaa hasn’t lived in the US long enough to feel all that comfortable here, but for the first time in her life, she’s far away from bombs and battlefields.
Nailaa was born in Iraq, just before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War. She was still there for the Gulf War, for the internal uprising that followed, for the second US invasion and for the turbulent aftermath of that war. She and her family were finally forced to leave five years ago, traveling first to Jordan before landing in the US.
She’s grateful for the stability and security she, her husband and three children now enjoy, but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten her former home in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city. Basra lies near the Persian Gulf, next to Kuwait. It was the port city from which Sinbad the Sailor launched his legendary journeys and then “The Venice of the East.” Some biblical scholars believe it was once the Garden of Eden, although it’s now one of the hottest locations on Earth. For Nailaa, though, it was simply home. Between the invasions and insurgencies, there were quiet times with family and friends. Her two older children were born there. She remembers having guests over, sipping coffee and chatting.
She’s starting life over here, learning English while her children attend local schools and her husband trains to become a mechanic. She has much to learn about the US, but for now she’s identified what she values most about her new home: “Just feeling safe.”