NOOR ALNOMAN, 18
Noor Alnoman thinks of herself as a girl who lost pieces of herself moving from one country to another—from Iraq to Syria to Turkey and to the United States. Forced to run from one war to another one until she arrived in Austin, Texas, she feels that her transiency is how her childhood escaped her. Alnoman emigrated from Baghdad, Iraq, spending 2009-2011 in Syria and 2012-2013 in Turkey before arriving in the United States in 2014. The pain of her loss—everything from her perspective of innocence to the burned remains of her favorite toys—enforces her belief that life chooses inescapable paths for us. Now she is a senior at Stephen F. Austin High School, and she is looking forward to graduation.
The struggles and horrible experiences that Alnoman had to face, particularly the wars, propelled her to complete her education, and empowered her to accomplish things she thought she would never be able to do.
Alnoman writes about the experiences of others, often focusing on immigrant stories, and issues that the mainstream doesn’t focus on. Alnoman believes it is most difficult to write about oneself because doing so reveals the differences between how others view us and how we view ourselves. The life experiences that are so visceral to her change in the eyes of others. She believes the most powerful tool that youth have is speech: they must speak out and write to enact change.
Alnoman will attend Austin Community College in the fall of 2019. She plans on studying dentistry to equip her in helping others with their health.
by Noor Al-Noman
I'm Noor, the girl that lost pieces of herself moving from one country to another. From Iraq to Syria and even Turkey. That is how my childhood escaped me– running from one war to another one until I got here. The pain of my loss– everything from my beautiful, innocent thoughts to the burned remains of my favorite toys, but life chooses certain inescapable paths for us. This is my story.
Warfare in Iraq caused me to flee my country and cost me the most beautiful, strongest woman I’ve known: my mom. I was eight, powerlessly watching her become sick after losing ten family members, all while trying to get us out of Baghdad. Every day she relived the blood, explosions, corpses in the streets. She traveled to Syria to find us a new start. We went two months without seeing her. With my father working all day long, I was alone. My lovely sister supported me, but she was only in middle school. It was like a blind person following a blind person.
Peace in Syria. I had friends and went to school with no fear of starvation and pain. But that peace ended out of nowhere. Suddenly I was just a nine-year-old frozen in shock– bombs exploding in the street in front of me, shooting all night, a man crying out for his dead children in a voice I can’t forget, and soldiers marching intimidatingly down empty streets.
Return to Iraq. Every minute stabbed me in the heart, made me relive the painful past. Only ashes remain of my memories. I started to experience severe allergies: coughing all day, no sleep, or even eat well. I was balancing all of this and simultaneously missing the love of my mother. She was like a ghost; there but not. We had to find somewhere we could survive.
Then Turkey. Our hearts were full of fear but we never showed it– that is what my mom taught us. We went to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to open our case and start all the interviews. I was 11 and my mom was gone. She didn’t talk to us, sitting all alone in her room. Now I had to take care of her and had other responsibilities. I was a second mom to my brother. I took him to school, helped him work on his homework, and made food. I had to do that until the day we would get to a place like our home.
Finally, Austin, Texas, after years of waiting. I felt hopeful again to have my family together. We had been building lives for years and we always had to leave them behind us. But now what we’ve been building, we know we’re going to keep. I had to face a new language and start from zero. For years I ran from war to war, from country to country. But now I’m running towards something, my future.