Mariam Shaabo Cougar from Iraq


Samantha Valdez , Opinion Editor

Iraq, 7,528 miles from Tucson Arizona (Yes, I looked it up.). Seems incredibly far – this country is imagined to be so different from the United States. But who really knows how Iraq is? At Sahuaro a junior named Mariam Shaabo was born in Iraq and lived there for the first 10 years of her life. When she turned ten, her family decided to move to the United States. Mariam’s uncle already lived in Tucson and had been telling her family for a long time to come live with him. He wanted them to see the world outside of Iraq, and he also wanted them to be safe.  “We were lucky enough to have gotten out in time,” Mariam recalls.  When people fled, not only did they have to leave their houses but also many of their belongings. Shortly after Mariam and her family left, ISIS took over her city.

Mariam and her family were amazed with how different the cultures of these two countries were. “There was a lot of

Mariam’s hometown now
Ninawa, Miriam’s hometown when she lived there

culture restrictions back in Iraq: the girls had to stay virgins until they married, their education was highly valued, they had to start learning to cook and clean at age 10, it was almost mandatory to go to church, but no one complained because it was highly beautiful like that.” She also expressed her value for those beliefs and shared another big difference was all the people here who are divorced. “Everyone in Ninawa was loyal and dedicated to the first partner their families approved for them to marry.”

Mariam is grateful that her life changed so much. “Back in Iraq women were supposed to stay home and help the mother, but here in America, girls are allowed to drive, work, and be involved in school activities. I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things if I still lived in Iraq.” Mariam’s family is supportive of her working and learning to drive, “They want me to be successful.” However Mariam’s parents still believe she is too young for a relationship; in Iraq it was incredibly frowned upon. “Girls were supposed to stay single all their lives until she was proposed to.”

“I’ve never seen a gun. I’ve never seen a solider, I’ve never seen bombings and I’ve never seen anyone dead. So the stereotypes about Iraq being full of terrorists is obviously not true and it’s offensive when the first thing people think of when I tell them I’m from Iraq is that I’m a terrorist. I love my country no matter what.” She wants people to know that no matter what they make Iraq seem like, it’s really not like that. During the time she lived there she recalls, “I had a great childhood and it was fun.” She is proud of who she was and what she’s become being part of both countries.