Dua’a Ghazi thought she’d never see her children again after they were kidnapped from the US and taken to Israel by their father. After what seemed like continuous hardships in life, Ghazi released a book to let other women know achieving against all odds is in fact possible.
In 2019, Ghazi published a biography, Unbelievable: The Dua’a Ghazi Story, to help other refugee women in situations similar to hers.
“I decided to write my book to encourage and help women,” she says.
Ghazi used StoryTerrace, a memoir-writing service that matches professional writers with those eager to tell their story. The service was recommended to her by a friend who worked as a translator for the American army in Baghdad. Through the platform, Ghazi was able to tell her own story of living through war and abuse, moving to the US and marrying an American soldier.
She was just 4 years old during the Gulf War. Her family is shocked she still remembers the events that happened.
“There was no power at all; my mom was unsure of where food would come from,” Ghazi says. Eventually, she says, “we couldn’t go to the street due to the siege.”
The worst was yet to come.
During the US-Iraq War a little more than a decade later, 16-year-old Ghazi viewed her surroundings in horror as citizens began to turn on each other.
“This time, we’re not just talking about the war and bombs in the street,” she says. “We’re talking about racism. People were killing each other.”
Ghazi’s parents, both Muslim, are from different sects within Islam. Ghazi’s mother is a Shia Muslim, her dad a Sunni Muslim. Because of this, her Dad’s cousin was murdered by the Iraqi militia. Ghazi’s father moved his family to Syria in 2006.
“It was time for us to leave the country,” Ghazi says.
The family left everything, even their shoes, in Baghdad.
After struggling to find a job in Syria, Ghazi’s father applied for refugee status with the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2008, believing the United States would provide a better future. After being accepted, High Point was chosen as the location of residence for the hopeful family, a location Ghazi grew to love due to its quietness in comparison to larger cities, like New York.
There, six months later, she met a man from the Middle East, whom she eventually married. Together, they had four children. He promised her she would finish schooling she never got to complete in Syria. Things began to look up for Ghazi, or so she thought.
Her husband suddenly turned violent, riddling Ghazi with mental abuse. She stresses that in her culture, defiance of the husband is extremely disrespectful. Women are taught to remain silent and stick by their husband “for better or worse.”
“A lot of refugee women go through abuse but can’t go to the police and couldn’t talk about or face their abusers due to traditions,” she says.
She stayed married for eight years, accepting the abuse to avoid the fear of people talking about her as a single mom. After getting into trouble with the law, her husband was deported, resulting in a divorce from Ghazi, but he didn’t leave the country alone.
“He kidnapped the children,” Ghazi says.
With no college degree and the inability to speak English, she felt powerless.
She went to the police who claimed they were unable to do anything, so a friend helped her enlist the assistance of the Senate office of NC. Senator Thom Tillis was an important figure in bringing the children home on the grounds of them being US citizens. After seven months of turmoil in court, Ghazi gained full custody of her children.
She urges women in general, but especially Middle Eastern women, to end the cycle of standing by quietly. It’s a constant reminder in the book.
Ghazi now works as a security officer, aiming to become a police officer to more closely fight cases like hers. In addition to Unbelievable, Ghazi, with her new husband, ZP, founded Embrace Women International. The non-profit organization serves immigrant women by guiding them through navigating the legal system, pursuing higher education, applying for a job, finding shelter and standing up for their rights. Embrace Women has already been successful in helping another woman from Iraq.
“They have to break their silence,” Ghazi says. “Help other women by raising your voice.”
Unbelievable: The Dua’a Ghazi Story is available for purchase on Amazon. To learn more about Embrace Women International, visit EmbraceWomen.org. To learn more about StoryTerrace, visit StoryTerrace.com.