- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - When American troops entered Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, Sajjad Jawad thought his homeland would be saved. He signed up to work with the Americans.

In 2010, Jawad, 46, and his family fled to the U.S., fearing for their safety due to his ties to the Americans.

Now, his country teeters again on the brink of collapse. Extremist militants threaten to overthrow the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week, President Barack Obama said he was sending as many as 300 military advisers to Iraq.

In Indianapolis, Iraqis like Jawad watch and wonder how effective that will prove.

The Northeastside resident said he would like to see the U.S. come out in strong support of the elected government, which has been under fire among some of Iraq’s ethnic groups for engaging in discriminatory activities.

“There is no need to push soldiers to be killed in Iraq, but to have the American community use its prestigious position to make clear announcement that Iraq is under democracy,” he told The Indianapolis star (http://indy.st/1sQPyMg ). “They didn’t commit any crime; the only complaint about Iraq government is marginalizing some small portion of the community. . You should respect the minorities, but they should act as positive opposition, not as slayers and killers.”

Two of Jawad’s sisters fled their homes north of Baghdad, where there was fighting, to live with their mother in the capital city, which is safer.

Jawad, who in Iraq served as manager of the liaison office between the American troops and Iraqi people, said he would love to bring his family here, but gaining asylum in the U.S. is not easy.

Since 2007, nearly 85,000 Iraqi refugees have been admitted to the U.S. About 150 families have come to Indianapolis, estimates Jawad, manager of employment services at Refugee and Immigrant Services, a program of Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

Unlike other refugees, those from Iraq often leave behind a relatively luxurious life in their homeland, said Gabrielle Neal, program director for Refugee and Immigrant Services.

“Every refugee, their story is so different, but a lot of Iraqi refugees have come from a lifestyle that’s more equivalent to the U.S. culture,” she said.

Many were professionals and had to start all over here. They left because staying could jeopardize their lives.

Basim Najeeb and his family left after he was shot in the stomach in a terrorist attack. His family fled to Syria for two years. In 2009, they came to the U.S. as refugees.

Najeeb, a lawyer, left behind five brothers, three sisters and his mother. He is the only child here. Two of his four children were born here, and his mother has never seen them. He last saw her three years ago, when they met in Saudi Arabia.

Now, she, his sisters and his brothers are all living in fear. He tries to speak to them every day or so on the phone, just to check in. His brother, who is Sunni, tells him that Shiite militia are everywhere on the streets and that they target those who belong to other Muslim sects.

Story Continues →