I was just a teenager when I began fighting for freedom in my home of Southern Azerbaijan. There are 35 million Azerbaijani people living within this region but we are not recognized as an important part of society. We are denied employment and educational opportunities, referred to as “donkeys”, and forced to practice our cultural traditions in hiding.
My friends and I often participated in demonstrations and encouraged others to fight for our rights as well. During one demonstration, my friend was arrested by the Iranian police and although I tried to save him, I was unable to free him from the bindings. Afterward, I began to fear that the Iranian police would come for my family and me. I felt that if I did not leave, we could face imprisonment, torture, or death.
I fled to Turkey where I lived as an asylum-seeker for nearly two years. Then one day, I was told that there was a place for me in the United States. Still scared and unsure, I was excited for the opportunity to rebuild my life. When I arrived in the US, LSS/NCA was there to welcome me. With their help, I learned how to speak English, filed for social security status, obtained a driver’s license, and found a full time job as a dishwasher.
I worked hard, and I am now the Vice President of a non-profit organization that helps foreign students find housing, transportation, and peer mentors. My hope is to help others who feel lost like I once did and let them know that anything is possible.
Let us celebrate our freedom and respect for human rights. If you would like to help a refugee like Hamed find his freedom, please consider donating items on our Wish List to help fill their new homes with daily essentials or volunteer as a refugee mentor.