Austin, Texas

When I first met Hussain, he was going by the nickname, "Leon". I didn't even know his real name until some time last year. Hussain served as an interpreter for Coalition Forces in his hometown of Baghdad, Iraq for nearly seven years: from the time he was 18, until the US withdrawal of forces, and even then continued on to work for the State Department at the US Embassy in Baghdad. Being a "local national", Hussain was never a Soldier, never carried a weapon, and never once fired a shot in anger, but he has certainly seen more combat in his childhood and young adult life than any person should ever see.

Now residing in New Orleans, Louisiana, Hussain is searching for meaning in his new life. In every sense, he is starting from scratch. None of his education translates into any American degree or diploma. At the time that this interview took place, and these photographs were made, he was still working on getting his GED, which he needs in order to attend college.

Hussain was left very little choice but to start over. He and his family were under constant threat of retaliation for collaborating with US and Coalition Forces in Iraq. So he asked many of the Soldiers to sponsor him for a refugee visa, in order to protect himself and his family from the possibility of being killed. One of the Soldiers whom he served with agreed to be his sponsor, filed the paperwork, and helped him get established in the US. His security did not come at a low price though, leaving his family, friends, girlfriend, culture, and entire way of life behind.


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