Civilian Voices from the Iraq War: Profiles of Iraqi Refugees in Houston



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Following the Iraq War of 2003, a rich stream of information analyzing PTSD in American soldiers, the realities of war, and other important narratives began to appear. However, in part because journalists were embedded primarily with the American military, not enough attention was given to civilians in Iraq. Few Americans know how the war affected infrastructure, communities, and daily routines of ordinary Iraqis were affected. Equally lacking are intimate, complex narratives about the lives of those Iraqis who fled the war, many of whom came to the United States. With the exception of comprehensive and illuminating refugee profiles by writers such as Kimberly Myer and Peter Holley, the few narratives about Houston’s refugee population lean towards blithe notions of the American dream, rather than the experience of living in the wake of war. This project serves to elicit voice from those whose narratives are nearly invisible in the American mainstream. In this regard it centers the experience of Iraqi civilians in a context that has tended to marginalize them. In this creative nonfiction piece, I explore how the Iraq War (2001-2011) impacted civilian life in Iraq, especially with regard to curfews, family life, access to healthcare, and physical and mental health changes both during the invasion and its aftermath. The profiles also show how Western reports of the war differed from Iraqi civilian accounts of what was happening on the ground, and the larger implications of this dissonance. Through the narratives of a mother, a translator, and a journalist, the continuous theme of violence against civilians is presented, as well as an understanding of how Western media’s negligence in representing an accurate civilian narrative led to growing tensions in Iraq.



Iraq War, Invasion of Iraq, Refugees, Refugee, Iraqi refugees, Houston refugees, PTSD, History