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2004-11-30

Iraqi-American Returns Home to Occupied Iraq After 30 Years to Teach and "Help Rebuild" His Country

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For only the second time in nearly 30 years, Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli is returning to his home of Najaf, Iraq. Rasouli is a successful restaurateur in Minneapolis where he lives with his family. He is boarding a plane today to return to occupied Iraq to help rebuild his country devastated by a war he opposed. [includes rush transcript]

For only the second time in nearly 30 years, Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli is returning to his home of Najaf, Iraq. Sami Rasouli is a successful restaurateur in Minneapolis where he lives with his family. He is boarding a plane today to return to occupied Iraq.

Rasouli grew up in Najaf, considered a "holy" city among Shia Muslims, about 100 miles from Baghdad. After attending school in Karbala, he left Iraq for a math-teaching job in the United Arab Emirates. He stayed six years in the UAE before moving to Germany, where he married Fatema, a Palestinian from Lebanon.

In 1985, Rasouli came to the United States with his family originally to seek a medical breakthrough for their oldest son, who was deaf. An experimental procedure did not work, but Rasouli and his family decided to stay in the United States.

Rasouli’s brother lived in Minnesota at the time, so he moved his family there in 1986 and earned a living driving a cab. Rasouli saved his earnings and in 1990, he opened a restaurant serving Middle Easter cuisine in Minneapolis. He called it Sindbad.

Now, nearly thirty years after leaving Iraq, Sami Rasouli is returning home. Last month, I had a chance to sit down with Sami Rasouli for an extended conversation about his trip home to Iraq. This is some of what he had to say.

  • Sami Rasouli

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, 30 years after leaving Iraq, Sami Rasouli is returning home. Last month, I had a chance to sit with Sami Rasouli in Minneapolis to talk about this decision. He had become a U.S. citizen, had a successful job here, but is returning home instead. He had made this decision after taking a vacation in Iraq, or rather, visiting his family there a while ago, and it was there that he decided that he had to be in Iraq. This is some of what Sami Rasouli had to say.

SAMI RASOULI: I was in a visit after about 27 years back to Iraq last November of 2003. I had, when I got there, a mixed feeling of very excited to see my family. I had four sisters with about 30-35 nieces and nephews and a really big, big klan of al-Shamiri which has, consists about three million people that cross the Arab peninsula and migrated a long time ago through the Arab world. But in Najaf and Karbala, I have the most closest relatives who I visited with during my visit. While I was happy meeting them and exchanging the experiences, how they lived, how I lived in the west, I was really destroyed by seeing the amount of the destruction and devastated country after the war and also the effects of the sanctions the last 12 years.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the effect when you returned to Najaf, where you grew up?

SAMI RASOULI: First I arrived to Karbala, then next day I continued to Najaf. The effect unfortunately was negative values that people were forced to adopt because of the need, the hunger, the unemployment, kids, age I mean seven to twelve not at a school, outside on the street trying to find anything, jobs, to help their families. The negative effect of their values was a kidnapping, was something we never and the Iraqis never witnessed and had before they kidnapped for ransom and that’s because of the need. Killing and robbing Iraqis, as well, visitors to just acquire their belongings, valuable merchandise or cars and cash. That wasn’t something we know about or just we read about and we know it’s something it’s not in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi American who has lived for more than 15 years with his family in Minneapolis, deciding to return home to Iraq to Najaf. He leaves the United States today. We did a half-hour interview and you can go to our web site and hear Sami’s story especially what it meant to meet U.S. soldiers when he returned home for a visit to Iraq. But I just wanted to end with, well, his conclusion as we talked after the half hour when I asked Sami, well, what will he do in Iraq when he returns?

SAMI RASOULI: I would do anything, anything. Probably I will start cleaning the streets where my sister lives and give those kids who like to listen to their uncle to come and help me and probably we do a lots of things and get the people influenced by rebuilding their country again.

AMY GOODMAN: Sami Rasouli. You can hear the whole interview on our web site at democracynow.org. He leaves for his home, Iraq, today.

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