Interview for

Sahar Al-Nima

8/4/2020

Interviewed By:

Gigi Pacheco

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 57:14
Summary

Sahar discusses her childhood in Baghdad, Iraq, her move to Syria which she remembers with fondness, and her move to Kuwait which made her feel trapped in the wealthy, segregated, and conservative environemtn. She then describes coming to the US, going to college, and how she both finds identity as a Muslim Arab and gives back to her community through her work in social justice.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Sahar Al-Nima

Date: 08/04/2020

Location: Interviewee (Denver, Colorado), Interviewer (Castle Pines, Colorado)


Content Warning: sexual assault

Summary: Sahar discusses her childhood in Baghdad, Iraq, her move to Syria which she remembers with fondness, and her move to Kuwait which made her feel trapped in the wealthy, segregated, and conservative environemtn. She then describes coming to the US, going to college, and how she both finds identity as a Muslim Arab and gives back to her community through her work in social justice.

Topics: War, Childhood, Family, Religion, Conflict Journey, Employment, Education, Religious Disillusionment, Language, Discrimination, Identity, Cultural Adjustment, Politics, Community, Home, Faith


Outline

Section 1: (00:00-19:28)

  • War, childhood, family, religion, conflict journey, employment - Originally from Baghdad in Iraq, talks about knowing something was wrong as a child. Iraq in the aftermath of Gulf War. After invasion in 2003, her family moved to Syria where they had family, then to Kuwait after her father found employment there. Talks about Syria fondly as the place where she experienced more of a real childhood and became more religious there, though this later changed.

  • Childhood, conflict journey- She didn’t want to leave Iraq, but later ended up loving Syria where there were no sounds of war, and they had basic necessities. Adapted there quickly. Kuwait was a harder move for her. She was older, talks about how Kuwait is segregated, very rich, and conservative.

  • Education - In high school in Kuwait, she remembers wanting more, and at this point, her parents discussed moving to the US. This was the first move that she actively wanted.

Section 2: (19:29-29:56)

  • Religion, family - Grew up Muslim. Father was Christian from a non-religious family. Mother was Muslim, and a bit more religious. In Syria, her family interacted with conservative middle class which was a more religious community and led her more towards religion. But never believed blindly in things, encouraged by her mother to think for herself.

  • Education, religion, violence - Schools separated by gender. Talks about how a conservative religious education affected her sense of self. Was sexually assaulted when she was twelve and started wearing the hijab as a result, felt it was her fault for freely wearing her hair.

Section 3: (29:57-40:11)

  • Religious Disillusionment, education, language- Falling out with religion started in Kuwait. Had consistent access to the Internet, could expand her worldview, and talk to many people. Was a big reader and her understanding of English made it so she didn’t need to wait for a translation. Pushed back against her teacher in religious class.

  • Religious Disillusionment, education, family- Her mother encouraged how she pushed back and developed a fluid relationship with religion. When Sahar came to the US, the first thing she did was take off her hijab. Didn’t want people to have preconceived notions of her.

  • Discrimination, Identity - Talks about Islam being racialized in US. Islam is not important to her in terms of religion, but it is in terms of the community it gives her. Grew up Muslim culturally. Being Arab is tied to being Muslim for Sahar. Doesn’t do all the small religious acts.

Section 4: (40:12-50:16)

  • Cultural adjustment, education, politics - She loved college and did very well academically. Was excited in this educational atmosphere, but grew to realize that her image of the US was not the real US. Start of Black Lives Matter. First she tried to avoid looking at the problems, but post the 2016 election, she tried to help in any way she could with organization, mostly working with the Muslim and Arab community.

  • Identity - Being in the US made Sahar want to identity even more as Muslim. Identity as her act of defiance, wants to embrace her identity openly.

Section 5: (50:29-57:15)

  • Community, home - Doesn’t think of home as a specific place. Mostly her family, but also describes home as a feeling that she can be all of herself and all of her identities at once. Could maybe call Colorado home, but not the whole US.

  • Faith - Parting notes on religion in general. Don’t benefit from completely denying religion. Even if you don’t have a lot of faith, it’s still better to have in your life for a sense of community.