Two Times a Refugee
by Najirah Arife
(Originally appeared in Immigration, March 2014)
Our Country Never Accepted Us
My parents are from Myanmar (formerly called Burma). They had to leave their country. Our ethnicity is Rohingya, and we have lived for generations in Myanmar, but the country has never accepted us as part of their people.
Finding Refuge in Malaysia
When they finally got to Malaysia, the people there helped with some medical care and shelter, but my parents had to work for any food they needed. They could grow food in the yard and fish in the lakes and from the beach. After arriving in Malaysia, my mother gave birth to me. Malaysia felt like my home. I liked the food and the traditions, but once I got to high school, I began to know that I didn't really belong there. That is when I became aware that I was a refugee, and I did not have the same rights to go to school as the Malaysian people. During all this time, it was important to my family to be able to practice our Muslim faith. There were three main ethnicities in my village, and we worked together to celebrate our faith.
Settling in the U.S.
Finally, after seven years, we were told that we were accepted to have a permanent resettlement in the U.S.A. We were happy and sad at the same time. Now we have been here for one year.
A Good, Safe Place
When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, we were afraid that people could hate us because the bombers were Muslim. My mother did not let me out for three days, and my community was very afraid. Lutheran Social Services came to Nashua and helped us feel safe, and we realized that Nashua was a good and safe place to live.
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