There is hope in every story.

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Western Media often restricts our greater global lens. In Dr. Segall’s Performing Democracy, she fights to reveal the truth about Arab Springs, defined as a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests, civil wars and riots in the greater Arab world. An estimated 151,000-600,000 civilians were killed just in the first 3-4 years of conflict in the Iraq War. In 2011, though omitted by Western media, thousands of people have protested throughout Iraq. “Iraq became central to Arab identity” because of “arguments in the new Arab media”. What fascinates me the most is the unprecedented amount of stories that go unheard and unseen. Thankfully, Dr. Segall highlights Khawla Hadi, an Iraqi woman with a heartbreaking yet hopeful story. Just a few years ago, Dr. Segall worked closely with Khawla in a public workshop, revealing a lost testimony, all while raising awareness and support for Iraqi refugees. Over two million people fled from Iraq across Middle Eastern borders. The United States is now permitting more Iraqi refugees after years of limited admission. Khawla was told to leave Iraq and lived two years in hiding before escaping across the border. Every week she relocated from garages, dusty back rooms, or concealed spaces of relatives. She had to be extremely secretive, use code names, and report to security (and her children) that her husband was dead, in order to securely take her children out of the country. Now living in Seattle, she bridges the gap between two regions, translating for newly arrived refugees.

Displaced Iraqis from the northern town of Sinjar head towards the autonomous Kurdistan region on August 4, 2014, as they seek refuge after Islamic State (IS) Sunni militants took control of their hometown. The Islamic State (IS) raised its black flag in Sinjar on August 3, 2014 after ousting the peshmerga troops of Iraq's Kurdish government, forcing thousands of people from their homes. AFP PHOTO / STR-/AFP/Getty Images

Her story of revolt has often been told at workshops through discussing poetry. During Saddam Hussein’s reign, poetry was a very popular way of expressing resistance to the state. It still is. Khawla identified with a particular poem, titled, “Bombardment” that imagined Iraq as a mother who is unable to hold onto her children. The author, Haider Al Kabi, writes, “The city cannot gather in her children.” The people of Baghdad desperately cling to their homes in what should be a safe haven. The maternal city is described as “vainly reaching to gather her little ones”. However, for refugees, the pain doesn’t end once having left their country. It’s extremely painful to be away from home while their relatives are still experiencing reckless violence, often witnessing this violence through a Western Media lens.

dr segall and khawla

Khawla’s story as a refugee is just one of many. Her perspective has and will continue to teach and inspire. We are fortunate enough to have Khawla chaperoning us on the trip. To say I’m excited is an understatement. This past spring Khawla came into our classroom to teach us some Arabic. You would have never guessed that this kind spirited, gentle woman experienced such atrocities. We all laughed together as we attempted to speak Arabic and a random man walked into our classroom offering giant red balloons. Of course we accepted. It was a beautiful childlike moment, made more beautiful by the fact that Khawla essentially had her innocence stripped from her, yet was able to experience this lighthearted joy. There truly is hope in every story.

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