Khalad grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, received an accredited university degree, and married the love of her life. As a Sunni Muslim, she witnessed and experienced hatred and violence between extremists in both the Sunni and Shiite sects. Although she and her family were never involved in the violence, they lived amidst kidnapping, torture, and murder for most of their lives. Even in the supposed safety of a doctor’s office, Khalad feared for her safety. When she was seven months pregnant, she went to the doctor for a routine examination, but she was induced inappropriately in an attempt to kill her child.
She and her husband also received numerous death threats. They eventually fled to Syria where she gave birth to a baby boy. However, they were not authorized to work in Syria, so she made the tough decision to return to the danger in Iraq. There she could work and send money back to her husband in Syria until her family was granted refugee status and received the news that they would be resettled to the United States.
Khalad first told her husband that she could not go as she could not bear to leave her parents or her home behind. Finally, after much difficult deliberation, she agreed to go and in April of 2009 she boarded a plane with her husband and her baby in her arms and came to Fort Worth, Texas. Her family was placed in a low-income apartment complex that was filled with residents who only spoke Spanish, so finding someone to assist her and her family to locate a nearby grocery store or means of transportation was often challenging. When they first arrived they had no car, little money, and little food. It was a desperate and lonely scramble for survival.
Eventually, with the help of the Refugee Services of Texas (RST), Khalad was offered a position as a resettlement caseworker in the RST Fort Worth office. Over time she had two more beautiful sons—a blessing she would likely have not had in Iraq. Unfortunately, thirty-four days after her youngest son was born, her husband had a seizure and their lives again became a battle for survival. He was diagnosed with brain cancer and had to have a tumor removed. He underwent radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer persisted. Very soon after this diagnosis her extended family was resettled in Fort Worth. Their loving presence was welcomed, but it added to the burden of managing their adjustment to her already busy life of working full time and taking care of her husband and children.
Despite the early challenges, today Khalad continues to be a beacon of hope for her coworkers and clients at RST. With the support of her family and community she remains optimistic, stating, “Once you have looked death in the eye, every single day is a blessing; the light at the end of the tunnel has never turned off.” Although the future holds uncertainty and many of her loved ones still live in fear and danger in Iraq, she carries with her a sense of grace, strength, and kindness that is lastingly recognized and appreciated by all who know her.