Although he was born in Iran, Sadiq Al Turfi has spent most of his life in Iraq as a displaced person fleeing persecution. But upon meeting him, you would never assume that a bad thing has ever happened to him and his family; he is the epitome of friendliness and hospitality on every level.
Sadiq’s family, of Ahwaz descent, was displaced after Ayatollah Khomeini’s infamous revolution in 1979. After Khomeini broke his promises of giving the Ahwaz people their rights, Sadiq’s family decided to flee to Iraq to escape the imprisonment and near-genocide that the Ahwaz people were suffering at the hands of the new, Khomeini-led Iranian regime.
Sadiq and his family lived in several different provinces in Iraq throughout the 1980s, constantly running from the Iranian militia who were often in hiding in Iraq solely to find the Ahwaz escapees.
After the first Gulf War in 1991, some of Sadiq’s family went back to Iran to escape the worsening situation in Iraq—but they were imprisoned in Iran.
In 2003, Sadiq and his wife and children moved to the city of Diwaniya, Iraq. While they lived there, they were forced to move five times and had their car stolen—all blatant threats from the Iranian government. In addition, because of their Ahwaz ethnicity, the Iranian military cut them off from working in Iraq. After that, Sadiq and his family applied with the UN for refugee status.
The Al Turfis then went to the border of Jordan and Iraq to live at a refugee camp in 2007. But it was not a good situation for many reasons: it was a Sunni area that is hostile toward Iran, the UN did not support the refugee camp, and there was some Al Qaeda presence. In addition, Sadiq’s daughter (age 7 at the time) was not able to go to school for the two years that they were there and Sadiq was not able to make money as a teacher.
In 2008, while they were still in that camp, they started the long process of interviewing with the American Embassy to try to get resettled. The UN then told them to go to the Al-Waleed camp, located on the border of Iraq and Syria. They stayed there for two and a half years but the UN was not able to financially support the camp, Sadiq’s parents were sick, and there was no future for his children so they decided to go back to Diwaniya.
After a lot of waiting, and feeling like they would never get resettled because of the endless obstacles in the whole process, Sadiq and his family were finally able to leave for the United States on June 11, 2012.
They still have a long road ahead of them, but the Al Turfis are excited to have opportunities to American education and to become acculturated to life here in Seattle.
Sadiq’s wife, Firyal, is an exceptional cook and makes a killer Chicken Biryani. Here is the closest recipe to her version that I could find.
This story was written by one of our fabulous interns, Natalie Schreffler.