Civil engineer, 1983, Baghdad, Iraq.

To me work is life and now I'm dead

December 21, 2016

My name is Aws Al Omar. I have asked for political asylum In Luxembourg in October 2015, together my wife Roaa and my two boys Asyr and Abodi. We are waiting for the refugee status.

Our top priority was and still is to find a job

When we first arrived in Luxembourg, we didn’t know what to do or where to start to find work. We just waited in the camp trying to obtain more information about how to start a living in Luxembourg. Our top priority was and still is to find a job. I tried very hard to find work but it was difficult because I didn’t know what to do, who to contact or where to go to find out about work opportunities. Then I heard about ASTI and its project Connection. I found Zina Menhal, one of the coordinators, on Facebook and wrote to her to find out more.

 I was excited to register with Connections

Launched early 2016 by ASTI, this program aims to prepare refugees for the job market and to connect refugees and employers via internships.

I learnt about the steps that I needed to take to help me to find work in Luxembourg. I got a lot of help from the Connections team via their information sessions and workshops. I updated and finished my curriculum and obtained my ECDL certificate for computer driving licence. I did my six weeks internship at nyuko, a startup accelerator. I joined their IT team. It was great honour and chance to work there. I experienced what is it like to be back in the working world again.

When the boys want to keep something secret, they talk Luxembourgish!

My boys are doing well. Of course, it’s tough to live altogether in a small room.

My eldest son remembers his past life in Iraq very well. He misses his room, his toys.

He is not used to live like this. We lived in a house with eight rooms. I promised him that as soon as we get our status I will ask for his toys to be sent from Iraq. That’s why he is impatiently waiting for our status (laughs).

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Both of our kids are fluent in Arabic. My wife is an Arabic teacher and their education is very important to us. They will both learn to write it also perfectly. My eldest son is doing fine at school. His teacher loves him. We are very happy happy about his progress. She tells us that he is a smart boy and very caring about the other kids. In Iraq he went to a private English school where he learned the latin alphabet.

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He knows Luxembourgish quite well now too.

When the boys want to keep something secret, they talk Luxembourgish!

I was  raised with high Islamic moral standards

I grew up in Al-Adhamiyah, a neighbourhood and east-central district of the city of Baghdad. Together with my father, my three brothers and my sister we lived in a big house with a huge garden. My father was a school manager and my mother a physics teacher. Like all the young Iraqis I started to work at an early age. I was twelve when I started helping my uncle. I have a few good friends in Iraq. I like the 80’s and 90’s music. My father was a guitar player. I am crazy about computer games. I started gaming in the 90’s and never stopped. All my siblings are well educated. We have a tight relationship and were raised with high Islamic moral standards.

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I lived a lucky life with my family until 2006

In 1996 my family moved to Libya for 4 years. We visited Jordan, Egypt, France, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi  Arabia and Syria.

I hold a diploma in civil engineering and drawing engineering from the Institute of Technology in Baghdad.

In Iraq I worked many years for the Ministry of Oil, the Iraqi government agency responsible for Iraqi petroleum. After I graduated in 2005, I joined the Ministry of Oil as a technician.  We were living in Hay al Jihad a neighborhood of Baghdad when some militia sent us a paper forcing us to leave our home. We had the choice: leaving or getting killed.

Editor’s note: The Hay al Jihad massacre occurred on July 9, 2006 in the Hay al Jihad neighborhood of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Estimated 40 Sunni civilians were killed by Shia militiamen.

Omar is a dangerous name to have in Baghdad

My name was a huge a problem. For historical reasons within Islam, Omar is a name given exclusively to Sunni Muslims. It stamps someone as “the enemy” – a Sunni rather than a Shi’ite. This how they proceed: the army stops a car at a checkpoint. The militia joins and starts questioning. If it becomes clear that a person is a Sunni, the risks are big the persons gets taken away, blindfolded, beaten and shot. In 2006, many men with the name Omar were found dead.

We left due to the treat and my family separated. I lived in my grandmother’s house.

I got kidnapped from my work on the 12th of December 2006

By some kind of militia. A civil war was and still  is raging in Baghdad. There are a lot of militias. It is very confusing. My driver gor shot in front of me as he didn’t want to get out of the car. I still have the scar from a bullet. They broke my teeth. For three days the only thing they asked me is if I am Sunni or Shia. They didn’t know my name, otherwise they would have killed me. I couldn’t answer. I had no way to find out if they were Sunni or Shia.

After 3 days of torture I was set free by the US army.

The US military was searching for weapons in the same area where the kidnappers kept us, found us and freed us.  After this incident, my family and I decided to leave Iraq. I went to Syria to search for safety. I lived in Damascus from 2007 on. I did different jobs and I finally worked as a programmer and designer. I was selling DVD’s to Iraq. This job was well paid and I managed to rent an apartment. Later my mother asked me to get married. I told her to find a bride for me and she found my wife Roaa in Iraq. Arranged marriage is very common in Iraq. My mother chose a good family for me. She came to Syria to pick me up in order to get married in Iraq.

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My marriage was a disaster

My mother was very sick. 3 days after my marriage she died of cancer. My life stooped for 3 months. I delayed the wedding party for months.

I fell in love with Roaa after marriage. I had never met her before though she grew up in front of my grand-parents house. We are actually distant relatives.

In Syria I had to apply as a refugee and was chosen by the UN and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) to go to U.S. but since my mom died, I didn’t go anywhere. I had no strength to do this important move.

One month after my first son Aysr was born, we went back to Iraq. We first established in Al-Adhamiyah and then from 2013 onwards in my father’s place in Hay al Jihad. Life was finally good again. I had my job back, a nice car and most of all, my second son Abdullah was born.

In 2014 we got a letter with a bullet inside

We were ordered to leave. We received a life threatening letter containing a bullet.

Today Shia are controlling the Iraqi government. They have more than 12 militias (armed terrorist groups). I had to hide my ID card anywhere I went. Telling my name would have been signing my death sentence. They tried to kill me many times. I was lucky to have a BMW armored car. We left Hay al Jihad immediately after the thread. I rented a big house in Adhamya, a Sunni area.

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My son got kidnapped in 2015

In 2015 I got transferred to Samawa, south Iraq. My bosses knew that for Sunni people like me, south of Iraq means death. I tried to work there. I didn’t take my ID  with me. My kids were going to a private school.

One day my wife called me to tell me that they kidnapped Abdullah from his school bus, only him, by his name. He was two years old.

After 3 days of negotiation they asked me to pay 50,000 $ to get my son back.

I had a very good salary but I couldn’t manage to find all the money so I borrowed some. I paid to get back Abdullah and after 3 days we left everything and went to Europe.

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Our journey to Luxembourg took us 21 days

Once we reached Europe we crossed Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Belgium and then finally Luxembourg. It was a very hard, long, expensive and exhausting trip for me and my family, especially the children. My brother joined us which was a relief.

To me work is life and now I’m dead

I asked for the international protection status for me and my family 15 months ago. I got the last interview 3 months ago. And now I’m waiting. It’s an ugly feeling not to know the decision. Also, I can’t really work until I get my papers. The refugee status recognition process is very long. To me it feels like a waste of time. Earning my life is essential to me. I need to earn money to offer my kids a good life here. Now, what I can offer them is very restricted.

Until we get the refugee status our lives are pending

I try to use this time as best as I can as I cannot work as long as I am an asylum seeker. I’m waiting all day long. The only good thing with waiting for the status is we have much time. I am very serious about learning French.

I’m a very active person: I play football, basketball, ping pong and also… computer games!

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Luxembourg is a great place. All the nationalities and cultures live together without discrimination. I am thankful that my children will be educated here.

My dream is simple: I want to find a job, rent a house, buy a car, live in this great safe country, see my kids grow up and enjoy a good education.

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I take integration very seriously. I am working hard to learn the languages. I want to show that I am a valuable man and citizen. I wish to meet residents and make new connections and friends.

Connect with Aws