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From war-torn Iraq to Boise, this refugee says World Refugee Day ‘is like my birthday’

World Refugee Day will be celebrated in Boise on Saturday, June 22.
Idaho Office for Refugees
World Refugee Day will be celebrated in Boise on Saturday, June 22.

“The feeling of freedom … the feeling of humanity. The feeling to be American person… to be proud of yourself.”

It’s challenging to find enough words to describe the wonderment and joy of World Refugee Day in Boise. It’s cleverly located in the downtown Grove, but it’s difficult to tell where the traditional Saturday market ends and the World Refugee Day festivities begin.

As a result, thousands of people, strolling through the market, suddenly come upon kiosks of crafts, food and fashion. Music from a nearby stage heightens, and aromas from some global delicacies tempt the taste buds.

Tack on top of that — a naturalization ceremony where men and women from nearly every corner of the globe become America’s newest citizens.

Holly Beech (right) and Saaed al-Azzawi (left)
Idaho Office for Refugees
Holly Beech (right) and Saaed al-Azzawi (left)

“It’s a chance for people who came from refugee backgrounds and now live in Idaho to celebrate and share some of the favorite parts of their cultures and traditions,” said Holly Beech, communications director at the Idaho Office for Refugees. “It has a vibe of connection, appreciation and solidarity. But it’s also a chance to pause and reflect and respect the fact that millions of people around the world are still displaced.”

Saaed al Azzawi knows that challenge all too well.

“I’m from Baghdad. I used to work at the U.S. Embassy In Iraq,” said al-Azzawi, who suffered his own share of wounds in his battle-scarred home nation. “We are lucky to survive. We lived a very tough life.”

But after relocating to Idaho with his family, and becoming a U.S. citizen, he has an ear-to-ear smile.

“The World Refugee Day? It’s like my birthday. The feeling of freedom … the feeling of humanity,” he said.

The two visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview this week’s World Refugee Day celebrations in Boise and Twin Falls.

Find reporter George Prentice @georgepren

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