Arzhang Mobasher, Iran
Arzhang Mobasher is a high school senior with big dreams: community college, then a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or engineering.
Back in his native Iran, those hopes were dashed long before Mobasher was born. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 ushered in a wave of religious intolerance, including government-sponsored terrorism, thousands of arrests and pervasive discrimination.
The biggest target was the Baha’i faith, the largest non-Muslim sect in Iran with 300,000 adherents, including the Mobasher family.
Arzhang’s father, a civil engineer, lost several jobs because of his religion, until the family lost all ability to support itself.
When Arzhang was 9, the family moved to Turkey and an uncertain future.
In Turkey, the Mobashers lived in the same kind of purgatory endured by millions of refugees around the world. They were fortunate to live in an apartment but had to support themselves through menial labor.
They lived on hope: that a sponsor would bring them to America before they ran out of work. Going home was never an option. “Month after month, you don’t know if you will ever get out,” Arzhang said.
“You had to be mentally tough,” Arzhang said.
However, the Mobashers were lucky: After only 2 1/2 years, they received a sponsorship through the United Nations and came to Spokane in 2012.
Unfortunately, an uncle remains in Turkey. “We don’t know if he’ll ever be able to leave,” Arzhang said.
Javier Ayala-Rosales, El Salvador
The American dream began with a nightmare for Javier Ayala-Rosales, whose middle-class life in El Salvador was shattered at the age of 5.
That’s when his father chased the dream of a better life, all the way to Spokane. He left behind a family of four, including Javier, his two brothers and their mother.
“It wasn’t a bad life,” said Javier, whose mother worked as the office manager of a small business, but his neighborhood in the coastal city of La Libertad was plagued by gangs.
“You’d get beat up if you looked at someone the wrong way,” Javier said.
His father didn’t forget about them. Ten years later, in 2015, he put in the paperwork that brought Javier, Francisco and Arieh to America, though without their mother.
“So many people come here because they just want to be with their families,” said Javier, whose brothers also play on the Rogers soccer team.
Their father is still in legal limbo. He’s still “going through the process of becoming a citizen,” said Javier, who is pursuing the American Dream for all it’s worth.
A junior, he hopes to become a dentist. “But I need to get a scholarship, because I don’t think I can pay for that on my own,” Ayala-Rosales said.
Abdirisaq Jama, Somalia
Three years ago, the entire Jama family – including Abdirisaq and nine siblings – was subsisting on the tea sold by their mother in a Kenyan refugee camp.
“We had a school, but mom couldn’t afford the bill, and we didn’t have enough to eat,” Abdirisaq said.
They were the lucky ones. A decades-long civil war in Somalia forced much of the Jamas’ tribe to seek refuge in neighboring Kenya.
For the Jama family, the ordeal lasted a decade and didn’t end until they arrived in Spokane in 2015, thanks to World Relief.
They arrived without their father, who found sanctuary in a camp in Ethiopia. They didn’t connect until after coming to Spokane.
“He can’t come here – I feel bad for him because we feel like we’re never going to see him again,” said Abdirisaq, who speaks monthly with his father via Skype.
“It’s just becoming so much harder to get here,” said Abdirisaq, who like most refugees follows the news from Washington, D.C.
The family has persevered. The younger children take part-time jobs while the older siblings work. Abdirisaq wants to go to college and become a teacher.
For now he’s focused on school and soccer. Once a club-level player in Somalia, Abdirisaq was disappointed that the game doesn’t have a big following in the U.S.