Manchester refugees share tales of horror from the past, find hope for the future

New Hampshire Union Leader
February 16. 2017 9:33PM
Bahera Musemi Shukuru, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, tells the story of his family's experience during war in that country at the "Manchester: A Home For All" event held at the Millyard Museum in Manchester on Thursday. Also shown are, at left, Dhafer Al Salih, from Iraq, and Ahmad Tamim Shams, from Afganistan. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — More than 200 supporters heard four harrowing tales from refugees to this city, stories of tragic loss, personal sacrifice and the road to a safe and brighter future during a celebration of new Americans at the Millyard Museum Thursday night.

Bahera Musemi Shukuru spent eight years at a Kenyan refugee camp before coming here in late November and he’ll never forget Dec. 18, 2008, the dark day tribal bandits in the Democratic Republic of Congo kidnapped much of his entire village.

“They took us into the bush and they started to do very, very bad things to us,” Shukuru said softly.

That would be the day Shukuru lost his parents, his wife, his sister, an uncle and many family members and friends, many assassinated in front of him.

“They took my dad, they took my wife and tried to make them have relations in front of my face. When my wife refused, they shot her in front of my face,” Shukuru said.

When he refused to have sex with his own mother, Shukuru said she was shot to death, too.

Today, Shukuru works as a residential counselor at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center.

Amadou Hamady, Manchester site director for the International Institute of New England, said the group is working to bring some of Shukuru’s remaining family members here from the refugee camps.

“He is very anxious because of the executive order,” Hamady said of President Donald Trump’s efforts to limit immigrants from seven mostly-Muslim countries.

“He’s very fearful that because of the politics, he may not be able to be reunited with his family.”

Jeff Thielman, president of the International Institute, said Manchester sets itself apart as a welcoming place. He stressed the purpose of Thursday’s event was not to condemn the Trump administration but to savor these success stories.

“There’s been a lot of dark talk in the public sphere about refugees and immigrants but in Manchester you find all that talk melts away and people come together to help those trying to settle safely in this country,” Thielman said.

Ahmad Tamim Shams, 23, has his own deadly day to remember in September 2012.

The scene was Kabul, Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber killed 24 working in the program that employed Shams as an assistant to the U.S. embassy helping foreign diplomats.

Taliban warriors stalked Shams with death threats as he moved from one house to another before finally fleeing here with his wife last year.

“You don’t know when or where the bombs will explode or where the next suicide attack will happen,” Shams said.

“A refugee just wants to have a life, a life without the gun shots, a life without people covered in blood,” said Asraa Abdulwahab, who left Iraq in July 2008 for Boise, Idaho, and started work last October for the institute as an employment services case specialist. “I believe God has given me a gift, an opportunity to advocate for immigrants who have no voice.”

Dhafer Al Salih knew it was his time to come with his wife and children to join his parents in Manchester last October after Iraqi insurgents delivered a blunt message to his front door.

“They came and (told) me if I do not leave, your family will be dead,” Al Salih recalled.

“This city is very friendly. Everybody does their best to help me. We did not see that in Iraq and now my family is happy today.”

Public SafetyNH PeopleSocial issuesManchesterImmigration

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