Ameera Briefki’s Odyssey From War-Torn Iraq to the Tranquility of Tennessee

by | Jan 2024

AT THE tender age of 19, Ameera Briefki embarked on a life-altering journey, fleeing the war-torn landscapes of Iraq with her Kurdish mother and siblings.

“I was living from war to war, literally all my life,” she reflects.

In 1980, when Briefki was still a toddler, Iraq and Iran entered into an eight-year war. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, prompting the start of the year-long Gulf War. Just as the dust had seemingly settled, the Kurds held an uprising.

“The Kurdish people decided to have a revolution to take over their land,” she said. “That was a horrible experience for me because we had to run to the mountains and leave all our houses.”

The tipping point came in 1996 when a Civil War began with the Kurds. Briefki and her mother, sister, and brother made a resolute decision — it was time to leave.

“Getting out of [Iraq] was just like a relief,” she said.

From finding refuge in Istanbul to making friends in Jordan, each step forward came with its challenges. Yet, even in adversity, Briefki found solace.

“We stayed together,” she said. “We just stayed strong from all that, and we just moved on and forgot about the bad experiences because we had hope that we were going to a better place — like a peaceful place.”

Their initial plan was to move to the UK, where her half-brothers lived, but when that didn’t work out, they applied to the United Nations for relocation. They were chosen to move to the United States and arrived in 2001.

“When we arrived at the LA Airport, we were so anxious, and it was a big, [huge] world, a whole different world,” she said. “When I look at it, I don’t even believe it’s been all these years. Sometimes it feels like yesterday for us.”

Briefki and her tight-knit family lived in California for seven years. At the age of 25, she and her siblings started college. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Briefki married, and she and her husband had a baby girl in 2002.

“From what I’ve seen and what I went through, I wanted my daughter’s life to just not be like mine,” Briefki said. “This country is full of opportunities, and she is really smart and a really hard worker. So I had to make sure that at least I gave her peace of mind so she can be successful in her life.”

She and her family moved to the Nashville area in 2008.

“There’s a big population of Kurdish people [in Middle Tennessee],” she said. “They even call it small Kurdistan. They are all in Nashville.”

Briefki’s life took an unexpected turn in 2013 when her husband passed away in Saudi Arabia. The circumstances surrounding his death remain shrouded in mystery. His death certificate said he had just quit breathing.

“He was all by himself, not even with his family,” she said. “So nobody knows what happened. I didn’t even know what to feel. I just felt so bad that nobody was with him. I guess that is how it is in life — we are not in control.”

Following a year in Dallas, which wasn’t a good fit for Briefki, one of her friends brought her to Hendersonville in 2014. She instantly fell in love.

“It’s so peaceful,” she said. “The people are so important, and when I came here, they were so friendly.”

Though she works as a medical courier, Briefki dedicated most of her time and energy to her daughter after her husband’s passing.

“From what I see, I don’t regret my decision,” she said. “She is really doing so well. She got a scholarship to get into Belmont. Every semester, she’s at the top of the Dean’s list, and she’s getting into research programs now. I’m really so proud of her.”

While California and Dallas presented their challenges, Hendersonville welcomed Briefki with open arms. She went back to Iraq to visit once, but she said it just didn’t feel like home.

“Since then, I haven’t had any interest to go back or just visit,” she said. “This here is my country. And honestly, even when I went there to visit, I kind of missed here immediately. I feel like I belong here.” GN

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