Story of Samah
In 2003, when the US troops entered my home city Baghdad, we were all forced to seek refuge in our ancestral village in the north. My family and I started our resettlement journey in 2009. I was 19 years old and was attending university classes in Baghdad when extremist groups targeted my university and made it impossible to continue my higher education.
In 2010, a gleam of hope arose when I was awarded a scholarship to continue my studies at a US college and earned my bachelor's degree in political science.
In 2014, I returned to Iraq and worked with displaced families in camps and informal settlements in Kurdistan who were affected by the violence in the region.I initiated the "bread project" - a fundraiser to help the displaced families with essentials including food, winter items and hygiene kits. With many families only able to access a limited supply of food and parents going hungry to feed their children bread, it represented hope, dignity, and respect. Families in refugee camps would often usher you into their tent and take great pride in cooking and serving you the most delicious meals.
In 2016, when the threat of the extremist groups reached our ancestral village in the north, my family and I had no choice but to seek asylum in Turkey. For the first time in my life, I saw myself as a refugee and knew that this would always be a part of my identity. I have seen first hand how food and its memory can represent comfort and safety in times of displacement. I watched my mother cook the most delicious, intricate Iraqi meals that we would normally only cook for special occasions. Dolma was one of the meals that my mother and the other women in the family would cook together while we were in the north waiting with uncertainty about our futures.
My family and I arrived in Australia in 2019. We were welcomed at the Sydney airport by a large crowd of friends, family and distant relatives.We felt embraced into a little Iraqi community in Australia. As we discover Australian cultures and cuisines, we hope to contribute to it by bringing a piece of our culture through food.
We still buy Iraqi spices, we still enjoy food that tastes like home.