Jehan S Harney’s exploration of the fate of two Iraqis who assisted US forces makes its debut as part of the PBS series, which brings international stories into perspective for American audiences. After its broadcast, the doc will be available for a limited time on WORLD’s website.
Harney’s film focuses on the plight of two Iraqi men, Nazar – a gold merchant who was tortured by Saddam Hussein’s forces, his hand amputated – and Salam – a young doctor and father. Both saw the American invasion of their country as an opportunity to free their people from the shackles of dictatorship, and collaborated with the US forces. Though their help was welcomed – Nazar, especially, was heralded a hero by the Bush administration, used as a symbol of the brutality of Hussein’s regime – they suffered gravely for their actions. In the face of threats against these “traitors” from insurgent forces – including the murder of Salam’s in-laws, and the bombing of Nazar’s house – both flee Iraq to seek asylum in America. While Nazar is able to bring his wife and children along, Salam is forced to separate from his wife for several years. Ultimately, both families struggle not only with a foreign culture, but with the gradual awareness that, for all their sacrifices for the US, they’re largely on their own. Nazar, despite his disability, PTSD, and language issues preventing him from working, is caught in a bureaucratic maze that claims he is not disabled, threatening his family with homelessness. Salam and his wife, though possessed of advanced medical degrees in Iraq, are unable to obtain the proper licenses to practice in America, and must contend with lower level positions, their cumulative experiences putting a strain on their marriage. Harney’s film captures their frustration, sense of betrayal, and deep sadness, exposing the shortsightedness of US immigration and asylum policies for those who may need help the most.