*Note: This is my incomplete ninth draft version for possible memoir book.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Ninos Youkhana. I didn’t graduate from an Ivy League school. I haven’t held a high position in a glamorous American company or served in public office. I’m not a lawyer or a doctor. I haven’t built a billion dollar business. I will not enter the history books like Saint Steve Jobs or the modern day Alexander the Great, Mark Zuckerberg, who connected humanity. In short, I haven’t accomplished anything great that would justify a stranger reading about my life and my thoughts. In a world where no story seems worthy of public mention unless it comes from the lives of famous people like the Holy Mother of Silicon Valley Sheryl Sandberg, this is my story of how I got here. It’s my memoir.
I’m forty years old, born in the land of Sindbad the Sailor – Basrah, Iraq. The greatest things I’ve done are to migrate to America, learn English (for which I still need my dictionary every day, even for some basic words) finish my Bachelor and Masters degrees in Computer Science, work as a translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq, and as a cultural adviser for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The coolest thing I’ve done is crossing the bridge between the American world and the Arabic world – several times. From a nation of kebabs to a nation of cheesecakes, from a nation where honor is tied to a woman to a nation where honor is tied to an income, from a nation where an average American can die from bingeing on fast food rather than dying from a car bomb like in Baghdad, from a nation where casual sex could get you killed to a nation where finding one-night stands is just a matter of swiping right, I have crossed the longest bridge – between the Muslims and Christians. As many people do each year.
But just like each person has a unique thumb print, I believe each person has a story to tell. It is all about the stories of our lives that secure us a place in history. And to remember our past is not just for memories, but a rebirth of our future. There are many ways to write a story. This is my journey from misery to magic, brick by brick.
I wrote this book for the American people, the Iraqi people, my Assyrian community around the world, and for my family. One of my main reasons is to find closure, similar to the closure an American family might seek when trying to understand how – but especially why – their daughter died in Iraq while serving in the U.S Army.
While Americans feel lucky being born in the most powerful, politically stable country in the world, with access to Ivy League schools, and the advantage of having the social capital to network themselves to high positions in influential companies like Facebook or Lockheed Martin, I’d like to find closure for my misfortune of being born in the wrong country at the wrong time. The world knows what happened to Iraq, but I’d like to know why it happened. I’d like to know why, simply being born in Iraq, has sometimes made it seem like I committed a crime. Sometimes even, that I committed a crime against my own fate.
Just like Americans, I was born in one of the richest countries in the world. Yet the American foreign policy adopted by the elites of Washington DC kept my country at war with Iran for eight devastating years – all to serve American interests – eventually leading to the Kuwait invasion. That, in turn, was followed by ten years of sanctions that landed me in Jordan, as a refugee, before I migrated to America. Why did the elites of DC do this to Iraq? Was the Iraqi blood cheaper than the American blood?
Then came the quagmire of the American invasion. After fifteen years of liberation from Saddam’s dictatorship as of this writing, the democratically elected government of Iraq has nothing to show the Iraqi people, their ineptitude only demonstrates that the efficiency of a dictatorship is a better option for securing and building an Arab nation.
Obviously, I would have had a very different history. And very possibly, if America’s companies had been vying for contracts and Anglo-Americans seeking employment in Iraq, I could’ve enjoyed the life of an Emirati in my country. I could’ve given you my spot in the American dream.
In the book, I will attempt to find answers to many other questions asked by Iraqis and Americans.
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