YOU ARE HERE: Glendale HomeCollections

Family leaves violence behind

Transplanted Iraqis make the new their own and hold on for a better future.

March 04, 2011|By Kelly Corrigan,
  • Alaa Salih and her husband Ceasar Ahmed with their daughters Talida, 1, and twins Zubayda and Shahynaz, 5, in their Glendale home on Monday, February 21, 2011. Ceasar and his young family moved to the U.S. from Iraq last year to find a better place for them to grow and go to school. The twins, who didn't know a word of English, are practicing the alphabet together with flash cards. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Alaa Salih and her husband Ceasar Ahmed with their daughters… ((Tim Berger/Staff…)

Seated in his South Glendale apartment with his wife and three children, two of whom are identical-twin daughters, Caesar Ahmed says he has resigned himself to a new life in the U.S., far from the strife spreading in his native Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

Anti-government protests in Iraq last week led to the deaths of at least 11 demonstrators who clashed with security forces — a familiar scene across the Middle East as demands for democratic reforms spread from the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But Ahmed left any sense of hope behind in Iraq when he moved his family to Glendale.

When he speaks of the people in Egypt and in other Middle Eastern countries fighting for reforms, he asks, “How? And who’s next? In Iraq, there was one party. The Baath party.”

Now there are more than 30 political parties.

“It really worries me — the whole thing about democracy and reforms — it takes years and sacrifices,” Ahmed said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”


But neither will his transition to a new life here.

Although he spent much of his youth in the U.S. — his father was an Iraqi diplomat in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations — his family moved back to Baghdad in 1991 under Saddam Hussein’s regime when his father’s mission ended.

“When I went back, it was a totally different atmosphere. We had the economic embargo. Sanctions. Iraq was isolated. No one could leave the country,” Ahmed said. “It was strange for me.”

Six years later, Ahmed finished medical school. He worked 15 hours a day as a doctor and then translator for the Los Angeles Times’ Baghdad bureau, but the security situation was too perilous, forcing him to move his family into six different houses within the span of six years.

The hope for a new life and stability that Ahmed and his wife, Alaa Kadim, had in 2003, when Saddam’s regime fell and when the pair first met, was gone seven years later.

After a three-year stay in Cairo, Ahmed’s wife and daughters returned to Baghdad in 2009. He took the family out to dinner at a recently opened restaurant. The next day the restaurant was bombed.

“We missed it by one day,” he said.

It was a brutal reminder that despite years of upheaval and military intervention, their security situation had not improved.

Glendale News-Press Articles Glendale News-Press Articles