REFUGEE STORIES: The Yasir Edition

REFUGEE STORIES: The Yasir Edition
Meet Yasir—a refugee from Iraq and an entrepreneur.

Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, Yasir faced many hardships throughout his life due to constant war and political turmoil. Bombings and kidnappings happened on a daily basis and were eerily normalized to him. ⁣

In 2004, when Yasir was 20 years old, he was caught in an IED roadside bombing while driving to school. He was badly injured and deeply traumatized. Bombings continued in Baghdad and dead bodies, even those of young children, lined the streets. ⁣

⁣A little while later, Yasir was kidnapped and tortured for being “too open-minded & liberal.”  Eventually, Yasir was released, but he knew he had to escape. It was a life or death situation in Iraq. Like many other refugees fleeing Iraq at the time he ended up in Syria. This influx of Iraqi refugees in Syria resulted in tension, overcrowding, and minimal job opportunities. Yasir remembers being crammed in a tiny apartment in the slums of Damascus with seven other refugees unemployed, afraid and struggling to survive. 

Yasir hit rock bottom and even contemplated suicide. It was a dark time for him. It was fight or flight for Yasir, and he tried one last time to make his escape. He went to an internet cafè and was desperate to find any form of relief online. He connected with an American filmmaker named Jennifer Utz who made it her personal mission to help hopeless refugees flee war and file for asylum with the UN. Jennifer responded to his plea for help right away and immediately began assisting him in his pursuit. 

After a very lengthy and tiresome asylum process, Yasir eventually moved to NYC. When he arrived in Manhattan, he finally got to thank Jennifer in person and show her his appreciation. Jennifer helped him apply for jobs and get on his feet. ⁣

Fast forward, Yasir is now an entrepreneur working with startups on AI technology and is also on the board of Syria Fund, a nonprofit that builds schools for refugee children in the Middle East and helps them overcome trauma. He’s often invited to share his inspiring story with others in the refugee community. Yasir and Jennifer remain very good friends today. 

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