One family's journey from Baghdad to Ohio
In 2006, Haider and Shaimaa Bahar fled to Cairo with their sons, 4-year-old Karar, and baby Ali. They sought medical treatment for Karar, whose eyesight had grown steadily worse since birth. They also escaped the violence of Baghdad, where they endured shootings, bombings, and death threats. Karar, who witnessed two murders, was traumatized and suffered from anxiety attacks and nightmares.
In Cairo, Haider was unable to find steady work or help for Karar’s vision. He and Shaimaa grappled with their uncertain future and precarious financial situation, and worried about Karar’s emotional fragility.
The Bahars were granted asylum by the U.S. and emigrated to Columbus, Ohio, in December 2009. Haider found work as a delivery van driver, and Shaimaa took care of the children, including two more: Renad was born in 2012, and Mustafa in 2016. They set about becoming a typical American family: they ate fast food, learned to drive on icy roads, and shopped for school clothes on Black Friday.
Shaimaa became a U.S. citizen in January 2015; Haider was naturalized a few months later. They were elated at their new status. Though eye doctors have been unable to help Karar, now a high school freshman, he gets good grades and has an active social life.
Citing what he perceived as a tough stance on Islamic extremism and a hope for more U.S. jobs, Haider voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. However, in the month after President Trump signed the first travel order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, Haider expressed worry that his family wouldn't be able to come to the U.S., and empathized with other refugees. Was "Make America Great Again" meant for Americans like him too?