By Kilian Colin
A couple of days after the Battle of Baghdad in April 2003, after the fires had ceased, my father, Adam Colin, took me with him to downtown Baghdad to look for a job. We rode the bus for nearly an hour to the outer border of Downtown before having to continue on foot since the streets had been damaged during the invasion days earlier.
We headed to the Al Rasheed hotel, which was where the U.S. military had taken up headquarters. The hotel was surrounded by heavily armed vehicles and the scene looked like it was straight out of a Star Wars movie.
It wasn’t long before my dad told me to turn around, that we should head back home because the situation might be too dangerous for me. I told him not to worry, that because of my size I could sneak in between the hundreds of people protesting the occupation and lack of jobs outside the hotel to the front.
I managed to get through the protesters and, using my 10th Grade broken English, asked one of the soldiers at the checkpoint if there were any job applications available. The soldier, who had Filipino features, gave me a couple of applications to fill out. He said that jobs were only available to people 18 years and older. I filled out the applications for both my father and mother and re-submitted them to that same soldier. He told me to follow up in two weeks.
My father went back in two weeks and he got the job. My mother refused to follow up because of her stance against the occupation to her country. I asked my dad about his stance, and he replied: “Son, George W. Bush showed the whole world the worst side of Christianity in this war. It’s time for us Muslims to show these soldiers the lightness of Islam and Muslim people. They deserve to be helped because they are here to make peace with us after war.”
He added, “These poor soldiers are also victims of their governments’ lies, and we must help them for the best of our Iraqi and the American people.”
My father was happy with his job because he was able to practice his English with the U.S. soldiers, as well as brush up on his painting skills. As an artist, he was able to paint some portraits of the soldiers’ family members in exchange for $20 a picture.
My father told me that he saw the tears in these soldiers’ eyes, every time he showed them the paintings of their loved ones. Despite the dangers of the job and its location, he was empowered by the smiles on the faces of these soldiers when they saw his paintings. He told me that making these soldiers happy was his priority at work, and that they were our guests and, in a way, were also refugees so we must treat them well according to our Islamic beliefs.
The military base where my father worked was also a very dangerous place. It was near the city of Al Saddar, which was occupied by the Shiite terrorists’ militias who were in a long-term fight with the U.S. soldiers. There was a constant booming near my father’s site and a lot of mortar bombs were thrown daily.
My father made sure to wake us all up in the morning before he drove to work to kiss us on our cheeks and say goodbye in case he didn’t return home. Every night when he made it home from work, he informed us that one of his coworkers was either killed, kidnapped by Al Saddar militias, or injured or killed by the mortar bombs that had been thrown that day.
One day, my dad came home crying because he said one of the soldiers whose kid he had just finished painting was killed by a bomb. She was an African American single mother who joined the military because she needed a health insurance for her son and wanted to be able to go back to school and get a degree to support her child.
On the Iraqi Election Day in 2005, my father didn’t make it back home from work. My mother went crazy and began calling all his friends and other family to ask if they had seen him. We couldn’t go out and look for him because there was a curfew due to Election Day and the U.S. military could shoot anyone they saw on the street after 5 p.m. We didn’t also have the luxury of cell phones then so we couldn’t just call him either.
We didn’t go to sleep that night because we were so worried and frightened. We cried all night. Around 5:30 the next morning, we got a phone call from someone who called himself Abo Saif. He stated he was from one of the anti-American militias and asked for a ransom to let my dad — who he called a traitor — go free.
My mother told him we had no cash and that she was waiting for my dad to come home to even buy groceries. The man told my mom that she had 24 hours to give them 4 million Iraqi Dinar or he would send my dad in a plastic bag to our house.
My mom called all her family members and asked them to help with the ransom. My uncle stated he would negotiate on her behalf in the future. We sold everything we owned, including our clothes, and we were able to collect some of the ransom, which my uncles then handed over to the militia. My father came back home safely but still suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to date because of the incident.
With only $400 cash that we borrowed from our relatives, we immediately headed to Syria after my father was returned to us. We petitioned at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Syria as refugees and were selected to be resettled in the U.S. because of my father’s work with the U.S. military. We went through a six-year long vetting process that included seven different interviews with the UNHCR, International Organization for Migration and the Department of Homeland Security before we were able to come to the U.S. in 2011.
In March 2017, I attended my representative Duncan Hunter’s town hall in Ramona. Hunter was asked by one of his constituents — a woman who identified as a member of the Tea Party — about why the Trump Muslim Ban was so weak, and what was his personal stance on it. Hunter responded by saying that he agreed the Muslim Ban was weak, and that he would like to see more Muslim countries added to its list.
Duncan talked about his service in Iraq, saying, “I have been there. I have seen how you can’t help people who can’t help themselves. You can’t help people that don’t share the same, and I’m going to say, Christian values, Judeo-Christian values that we have in this country.”
Duncan Hunter continued his bigotry and said, “So, here’s what we do: … It’s not to build them mosques. It’s not to build them schools. It’s not to build them dams. … You have to get rid of the bad guys. That’s the way to do it.”
So according to Duncan Hunter’s philosophy, my father, who served bravely with Duncan in the same war, is a bad guy and we must get rid of him.
I immediately remembered Trump’s words when he mocked John McCain and denied that McCain was a war hero. I remember wondering why cowards always mock brave people. Maybe it’s simply because they are jealous of their courage.
Hunter went one step further and said that refugees who came during the Obama Administration were not vetted properly and should, therefore, be deported.
This statement saddened me the most as I, my family, and my father — a war hero — all came during the Obama Administration. It saddened me the most because my father almost gave his life for this country. It saddened me that Duncan Hunter was spreading lies and hate about people who served with him and about a country that didn’t want his Republican Party’s war. It saddened me because it showed me that my representative is totally ignorant about the struggle of a refugee and the extreme vetting process through which they have already been. It saddened me because my representative, whose salary is paid by the tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars from working refugees who live in his district, is speaking vitriol against them.
It saddened me that Duncan Hunter said that we don’t share the same American Christian values when it is he who is under investigation by the FBI and Department of Justice for campaign finance fraud committed by him and his wife during the 2016 election cycle. The FBI has since raided his office in El Cajon to further dig into his misuse of $67,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
My family and I have lived in the U.S. since 2011 and we have never been investigated by the FBI. If I hold Duncan Hunter accountable for his own statements, he should be deported to Guantanamo Bay because he violated his own Judeo-Christian values.
Kilian Colin is a progressive grassroots activist from East San Diego County and a member of the Committee for Better Banks, a group of former and current bank workers that stood up to Wells Fargo’s shady practices and decided to be whistleblowers against that bank.
Duncan Hunter’s quotes referenced in this story can be found starting at about the 1-hour mark in the video of his March 11 Townhall, held in Ramona.