Video: Return to Iraq, only to leave again

By Tom Brokaw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/23/2007 7:31:20 PM ET 2007-03-23T23:31:20

When the Naama family returned home to Iraq in 2003 — soon after Baghdad fell — they were the hope of a new Iraq — optimistic, proud, eager to make a difference.

The Naamas waited 12 long years to return to Iraq. In 1991, Abbas was a leader of the unsuccessful resistance against Saddam Hussein, and the family was forced to run for their lives. Their daughter Esra was just 10 years old.

"We saw people being taken and slaughtered," Esra says. "I remember seeing two guys hung on palm trees."

When I first met them in 2002, they had relocated to San Diego, where they were living the quintessential American life. Abbas was a pharmacist, and the children were typical Californians. But, for Abbas and his wife, Sabria, America is where they lived — Iraq was their real home.

Tom Brokaw: You want to go back?
Sabria Naamas: I'd like to go home to help the people — to help my family.

Once American troops secured southern Iraq, NBC News joined them for their emotional journey home. Seeing family they never thought they would see again. Their old house destroyed years ago.

Brokaw: Is it better or worse than you expected at this point?
Abbas Naama: It's better.
Brokaw: It's still very difficult?
Abbas: Whatever the price is it's easy. We live in freedom now.

Once settled, Abbas started a medical supply company and joined the reconstruction effort. Sabria ran for parliament — eager to test her country's emerging democracy. Esra worked to promote women's rights. While Mahmood, their youngest, stayed in California for college,  he did vote in the Iraqi election and visited his family whenever he could.

"We have to fight for what we want if it means that we're going to have to lose our lives for it," Mahmood said.

On one of those visits, in September 2005, Abbas was kidnapped.

"He said 'I'm going to go out, get a newspaper, get a couple of things done, I'll be back in a half an hour,' " Mahmood recalls.

That would be the last time Mahmood would see his father. He was kidnapped only a few blocks from their house in Baghdad. He's not been seen since, and the family has all but given up hope he's still alive.

"I can't believe what happened to my husband or to my family," Sabria says. "It's very difficult."

The Naamas take some comfort in the fact he was doing what he desperately wanted — to make Iraq home again for his family and for other Iraqis.

"He's a patriot to this country and to the American country, and he stood up for everything that he believed in," Mahmood says.

The Naama family, like so many other middle-class Iraqis, have again fled their home country. They're now living as refugees in Jordan, trying to put their lives back together. Again.

© 2013  Reprints


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments