“From Baghdad to The Bay”
Meet Ghazwan Alsharif
Erin Palmquist took ten years to make “From “Baghdad to the Bay”. It is the story of Ghazwan Alsharif, an Iraqi refugee and former translator for the U.S. military. After years of service helping the American invading forces, he was wrongfully accused of espionage and tortured by the military police in Iraq for some 75 days before being rescued by an American Colonel who he had served and who personally vouched for him.
When the Iraqi militia learned of the work he had done with the United States Forces, they threatened his family and then bombed his home. His parents who had initially encouraged him to help the Americans liberate the country now ostracized him for refusing to give up his war work.
Despite the American Government’s avowed aim to help re-settle Iraqis who had risked their lives working with the Armed Forces, the reality of actually being allowed to immigrate to safe haven in America involves a long and rough procedure with no guarantee of success. Alsharif was one of the lucky ones who managed to be awarded a place in an International Refugee scheme that enabled him to get to San Francisco.
Over the years Palmquist and her crew regularly returned to visit Alsharif and see how he was adjusting to his new life especially with what he had to go through and being forced to give up his own home and culture purely to survive. He was not only cut off by his entire family back in Iraq, but his divorced wife now living in London rarely allowed him even phone contact with their son.
Alsharif was to finally able to come out as a gay man, but when his photograph with other gay men appeared on Facebook, his brothers called from Iraq to demand that they are taken down. In 2012 when he lent his support to the group campaigning to stop Iraqis being killed back home just for being gay, his family contacted him again to tell him to stop doing so. An American Arab explained that the family could be totally excluded from Iraq society if it was known they had a gay son, which may seem severe but is really nothing in comparison with the knowledge that this could easily cost Alsharif his very life.
Alsharif is a very affable man and loves his work as a his work as a chef. He has a new group of friends, American citizenship, and a gratitude for his freedom which almost makes up for the loneliness he feels that he will never escape.