refugee

We Took In Refugees, It Was Awful—But I’d Do It Again

House key on a house shaped keychain resting on wooden floorboards concept for real estate, moving home or renting property

Editor’s Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy and safety.

When I met them back in 2014, Dorri and Farah had just arrived from Tehran. As a lesbian couple, living an open life in the Islamic Republic of Iran was not an option for them. After receiving several threats, Dorri and Farah sold everything and left the country. Luckily, Dorri had an uncle here in the United States, so they were able to move in with him.

Knowing only very basic English and less than a handful of people, their future was unsure: Would they get jobs, would they be granted asylum? Or, would they have to go back?

Dorri, Farah and I became fast friends: I found them an English teacher (a good friend footed the bill), and took them out on the town as often as I could. But life wasn’t going well for them. Dorri’s uncle behaved erratically, they felt threatened again, and finally decided they couldn’t stay with him anymore.

When Farah called me to ask if I could help, I said yes on the spot. Dorri and Farah would stay in my house for a few months, and I would move in with my girlfriend (now wife). Keeping two houses wasn’t financially realistic, which is why we’d planned to rent out mine.

So Dorri and Farah moved, and all was well. Until it wasn’t. As often happens when former friends start cohabiting, during the three months Dorri and Farah lived in my home, our relationship completely deteriorated.

Uncomfortable things happened, like when Dorri and Farah posted Facebook pics of their luncheons served on my grandmother’s china, with my friends—and without me. It was like I was back in the 6th grade, when I didn’t get invited to so-and-so’s sleepover; but in this case, the sleepover was at my house. And then there was Dorri’s Facebook post about the Gaza War. As a liberal Jew, I too was critical of the Netanyahu government; however, the tone of Dorri’s atypical political post felt pointed and weirdly passive aggressive.

Later, as the move-out date grew closer, Dorri stopped speaking to me altogether. According to Farah, she was disappointed that they had to move out of my house and move in with my neighbors.

In the months to follow, they seemed to be spreading strange rumors about my wife and me. For instance, Dorri texted me when I was three months pregnant to tell me that she had heard “things” about Leslie not wanting our son. These weren’t 6th grade kind of rumors—they were legitimately hurtful.

To this day, I feel a mixture of anger and wistfulness towards Dorri and Farah. I wish they would have been willing to sit down, hash it out and make up. It’s weird, and a little sad, to run into them when we’re out and about. Farah works at a local business near my office, and when I see her, we barely make eye contact.

But here’s the thing: none of that actually matters. It’s OK that our friendship took the back seat, and it’s OK that feelings were hurt on both sides. What matters is that Dorri and Farah were granted asylum. They’re safe and hopefully, they’ll never feel threatened again. The kind of existence where drama mostly arises from things like friendships turning sour—that is a life we should all have.

When I think back to that summer, I don’t have any regrets. Helping them was an inconvenience at most. In fact, I was, and am, lucky to be in a position to help—that’s true privilege. And while it ruined our friendship, I’d absolutely do it again if I was in a position to host someone else.

Because it comes down to this: your right to safety and freedom has nothing to do with whether I like you. It has to do with whether you’re a human being.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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