Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kurdish Asylum-Seekers on Guam Await Entry into New Life in U.S

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kurdish Asylum-Seekers on Guam Await Entry into New Life in U.S

Article excerpt

Jamil Khalil Samin sat outside a concrete building that until recently housed officers at Andersen Air Force Base. He smiled at a group of Kurdish children playing in the street.

Before coming to Guam from Iraq, he saw a lot of suffering, Samin said. He tried to do something about it, using his skills as a civil engineer to rebuild what Saddam Hussein's forces ruined.

That, however, put him in a delicate political position. By helping the Kurds, Samin also was helping the United States weaken Saddam's hold in northern Iraq. As far as Saddam was concerned, he was a spy, a charge Samin denies, although he makes no secret of his dislike for Saddam. So when Saddam's troops regained strength in the north last year, Samin fled. Along with 6,600 other asylum-seekers, Samin and his family made it to the Turkish border and then to this military outpost in the western Pacific in one of the biggest evacuations in recent years. Now the Kurds wait - in transit to a new life in America - on a tightly secured corner of this tropical island, away from the beaches and swarms of sunbathing Japanese tourists at its far end. Many still wear the baggy clothes of their homeland. Men sit chatting under palm trees, rubbing prayer beads between their fingers. The asylum-seekers are mostly Kurds who worked directly for U.S. interests and international humanitarian groups in Iraq or were members of dissident groups, including the CIA-aided Iraqi National Congress. "They're being granted asylum because if Saddam got his hands on them, he would kill them, no doubt about it," said Col. Frank Hicks, head of a contingent of 400 Marines guarding the camp. Along with shelter, the Kurds have been provided with food, medical care, English lessons for those who want them and a weekly newspaper with articles in Arabic introducing American culture and history. …

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