Columbia family reacts to daughter trapped in Iraq

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COLUMBIA - After surviving the genocide in Iraq led by Saddam Hussein, Saeed Haji, husband and father of nine faces another obstacle.

Haji and his family fled the city of Sinjar in Iraq and came to Columbia more than two months ago, but left behind someone precious.

"My daughter, the oldest of my kids," Haji said.

His daughter was not able to come to the U.S. with the rest of the family because she was considered an adult and had to be processed separately.

The northwestern town of Sinjar was attacked August 1 by ISIS targeting Christians and members of the religious sect, Yezidi. His daughter, 22 year old Janan Haji, was in the city during the attack. She fled to the mountains with thousands of other Yezidis during the raid.

Sunday afternoon, Haji and his wife received a call from their daughter.

"She said, 'Our situation isn't too bad, we're just moving from the mountain to North Iraq. My arm is broken...we had no food, no water, no medicine, anything. Just the terrorists, they attacked us and we ran for a long time,'" Haji said.

Right now she is living with relatives, but Haji said she will probably need to find a different place to stay in a few days.

"Everyday we worry about her. We don't know if she is alive, if she is dead, is missing, we don't know anything. Just yesterday we talked to her and she said, 'I'm alive, I'm alive.'"

Haji and his family said they feel helpless.

"I want everyone to be safe. My hope is for my daughter to come join us."

In Iraq, Saeed Haji was an interpreter working alongside the U.S. military, bridging the gap between the Iraqi Army officers and U.S. Army advisers. He became friends with various members of the U.S. army and even invited them into his home to share meals. 

As a result, Haji and his family were evicted from their home for interacting with the U.S. military personnel outside of his duties as an interpreter.

Now Haji works at a factory in Columbia to support his wife and children.

 

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