Amitab’s life has been one on the move. Born in Baghdad to a Christian family 29 years ago, he recalls how his childhood was spent between going to school in the city and visiting his extended family and grandparents who lived in Dohuk in the holidays.
“At that time religious differences weren’t really an issue, at least for me, in school I had friends from all faiths and ethnicities.”
After studying electrical engineering at university, Amitab decided to change track and become a priest. But is was 2003 and the start of the Iraq war quickly changed things – “because of everything that happened at that time, my opinions and beliefs changed slightly. I felt I had a bigger role to play than just studying religion.”
Instead he started working in a data entry job at a newspaper, but as the conflict worsened some of his colleagues began to join militias and “threatened me if I didn’t do the same.” In 2005, therefore, Amitab joined the wave of refugees fleeing Iraq to Jordan. “It was such a quick decision to leave. I didn’t bring anything with me. None of my university certificates or even a spare change of clothes.”
However, a year after arriving in Jordan, Amitab was missing his family, some of whom were in Syria, so he decided to go and join them.
A couple of years in Syria quickly passed, but his journey was not over. When he heard his grandma had become sick in Iraq he felt a responsibility to return, “she was such a big part of my childhood, I couldn’t just leave her alone.” But once again, in 2007, Amitab found himself in the middle of conflict.
Deciding this time to try and seek a better life in Europe, he fled through Turkey to Greece where his degree in electrical engineering and experience in data entry back in Iraq, led him to landing a job at Dell, as a tech support focal point for businesses located across the Arab speaking work. A couple of years later though due to increasing financial problems in Greece, he decided to return to his family, many of whom had also been scattered across the region.
“When I found myself back in Iraq though I felt I had gone backwards. Nothing had changed. The same problems still existed.” With his sister married to a Jordanian, Amitab finally decided to go back to where it had all started and re-registered as a refugee in Jordan. “In light of everything happening across the region at the time, it felt like it was the best choice. So many countries were plagued with fighting and conflict.”
With his entrepreneurial spirit and determination to succeed, Amitab eventually found informal work with a catering business and in an internet cafe.
“Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was obviously extremely effected by everything which had happened. I was just thinking about myself. I was angry with the world.”
Responding to an announcement on Facebook looking for volunteers at the community center near where he live, however, completely changed things. Now a member, of the Community Support Committee, made up of 17 Jordanians and refugees of different nationalities, Amitab has changed his outlook on life.
“Before I didn’t share any of my knowledge or skills with anyone, I was selfish. But now I see the benefit both for me and them. My experiences have enabled me to give advice to others who may now be facing similar choices. I understand their suffering. I’ve lived through it.”
16 years since he last saw his parents, and some of his siblings, who got resettled to the United States, Amitab exhales as he speaks about the support that the other members of the committee have given him. “I know everyone here says it, but we really are a family. It has changed us all for the better.”