Escaping Hussein

Sarmad Kako, Mrs. Kako, Israa Kako, and Salaam Kako posing for a family picture.
Courtesy of the Kako family
Sarmad Kako, Mrs. Kako, Israa Kako, and Salaam Kako posing for a family picture.

With White Station being as diverse as it is, there are many stories about how students’ families moved here from other countries. One unique story is that of Sarmad Kako (12) and his family who moved to the United States from Iraq in order to escape the threat of Saddam Hussein.

Kako is a combination of two Middle-Eastern ethnicities, which shows the diversity even within his family.

“My mom is Arab and my dad is Kurdish,” Kako said.

While living in Northern Iraq, Kako’s father was part of a Kurdish rebel group that was aiding the U.S. against Hussein.

His father was “a ranking official who was respected by the U.S. government,” Kako said.

However, because of their roles in the rebel group, Hussein and his forces threatened Kako’s family.

The U.S. government found out about Hussein’s closing in on the Kako family, so they moved his parents, brother and sister to Turkey for a couple days, then to Guam. This constant movement gave the U.S. government time to get legal papers allowing them to come to the United States. While in Guam, Kako’s mother was pregnant with Kako.

Kako’s father had friends in Texas, so that is where his family decided to be relocated to, which is also where Kako was born. Unsatisfied with Dallas, TX, Kako and family moved to Memphis, hoping that this where would be their final move, but when Kako was around 1 or 2 years old they moved to back to Iraq for a year. Realizing the still present threat, they moved back to Memphis and he has been here ever since.

Unfortunately, Kako’s parents had tensions in their marriage resulting in their divorce, along with his father moving back to Iraq.

“It was probably better that my dad moved back to Iraq, because he wanted to keep fighting against Hussein,” Kako said.

When his parents split, Kako’s four-year older brother, Salaam, stepped up and became the only father figure Kako knew. Therefore, since he has so much respect for his older brother, he wants to follow in his footsteps and join the military. His sister, Israa, who is six years older than Kako is also in the military and is stationed in Alaska.

“I want to protect the citizens of the United States, because my family owes our lives to the United States,” Kako said.

Though the journey was not particularly the easiest, the Kako family is extremely grateful for the opportunity to live in the United States. Kako says that the life they would have had in Iraq does not even compare to the life they have and will continue to have here. Thus, he is proud of his father’s cooperation with the U.S. Government and the sacrifices that he made to get them here out of harm’s way.

When asked if he wants to visit or even move to Iraq, Kako said, “I’ll never go back.”