BY JADA ROBISON // Taha and Malika Muhammed lived in Kirkuk, the heart of the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq in the 1950s, and after escaping the heinous regime of Saddam Hussein, they landed in Shelbyville, Tennessee. This is their story.
In 1958 the English Monarchy was no longer ruling over Kurdistan after being overthrown and power was shifted to Abdul Karim Quassem. This change in power caused the Turks to fear that the Kurds would eventually gain their independence. Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the government was over- thrown once again causing chaos and violence to erupt in Iraq.
Taha and Malika lost their 12-year-old son to Hussein’s mer- cenaries in 1981 and in 1988 the Halabja chemical attack bruised Taha’s heart. After years of suffering, Taha decided to make a plan to get him and Malika safely to Turkey. One bitterly cold night in November of 1990, they crossed the river and finally made it over to Turkey, but soon after, they were arrested by Turkish sol- diers and were forced to be separated and kept under Turkey’s oppression. After about a year, they were freed by American soldiers, Taha even recounts hugging one of them, and on September 24, 1991, Taha and Malika flew into America.
Upon coming to America Taha obtained both his bachelor’s and his master’s degree in Mathematics and began working as a teacher. Taha also worked for a while as a translator within the U.S. Army as well as for the Air Force.
MEET THE MUHAMMEDS
After Malika had to have a chest operation in 2017, they decided they would be better off moving from the cold state of Minnesota and wanted to move to Tennessee because their weather is similar to Kirkuk’s. Originally Taha found a home online in Clarksville City, but after visiting there he decided to continue looking. He found a nice, affordable home in Shelbyville and without visiting the city, he purchased the house. They have been living in Shelbyville ever since.
Taha was so moved by the kindness of the people in Shelbyville and their willingness to welcome and accept him that he picked out two beautiful oil paintings from his home and gifted them to both the Mayor and the Gov. of Tennessee. He believed that after the events of 9/11 they had every reason to treat him and Malika differently, but the fact that they didn’t and he and Malika were welcomed with open arms meant everything to him. Taha said that it’s important to remember that bin Laden was a muslim, but not all Muslims are bin Laden.
Taha has written two books about his and his wife’s experience: “We Survived Iraq and Turkey” and “Thank you Amer- ica.” These books are meant to stand up against the oppression of the Kurds as well as educate others on the story of Kurdistan and hopefully help Americans feel blessed to live in a country like America.
Taha expressed that his reliance on God throughout his experience is what brought him to America and ultimately to Shelbyville. He hopes that people con- tinue to extend a helping hand to every refugee who enters their community and afford them every opportunity to thrive in their new community just as Shelbyville did for him and Malika. -GN