Country of Origin: Iraq
Um Shaham (the mother of Shaham) is from Mosul, Iraq and is a mother of four. On November 15th, 2003 she was helping her husband clean his new taxi; he had just brought it back from the mechanic and had left some grease marks on the body.
Together with Shaham (their oldest child), Um Shaham and her husband washed the car with gasoline, a substance that easily cleans grease off of cars. A few minutes after they began washing, a fire erupted within the house, engulfing the car along with Shaham and his parents. The fire began in Um Shaham’s bedroom before spreading to the rest of the house. Her bedroom contained the crib of her youngest daughter, Shumoo. The toddler was sleeping at the time, and the fire missed her by a few inches. Um Shaham and her son weren’t as lucky, each received third and second degree burns, respectively.
A few months into the Iraq war, Um Shaham’s husband was driving his Taxi around Mosul when he was shot dead by a stray bullet. The widowed family relocated to Turkey, where they would spend the next two years. Shaham was now 14 and went to work at a local restaurant to support the family. Um Shaham and her family decided to apply for asylum and were resettled to New Haven on June 1st, 2015.
Shaham is now 18 and just began his senior year of high school. Throughout her tragedy, Um Shaham remains positive and tells us that all she wants in life is her kids’ happiness.