Iraqi-born Ohioans want to help homeland rebuild

CLEVELAND (AP) - With war winding down in Iraq, some Iraqi-born Ohioans are eagerly awaiting their first chance to visit family in decades while others look forward to helping rebuild their homeland.
Dr. Rafal Badri has built up a modest collection of donated
medicine and surgical tools. If flights don't open to Baghdad, he said he's willing to repeat a dangerous 300-mile desert crossing he's made before from Jordan.
"I'm a doctor. And I'm sitting here and people are dying,"
said Badri, 50, who lives in suburban Mayfield Heights. "Believe me, I'm ready to drop everything and get on a plane."
Adil Altaei has built houses in Ohio with Habitat for Humanity.
He wants to do the same thing in Iraq.
"People lost their houses," he said. "I'm ready to go back
and help them."
Altaei, of Lakewood, has had no contact with his family in Iraq for two months.
In 1991, when he was 18, the former Iraqi soldier rebelled
against Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War, then fled and spent five years in a refugee camp. He has since taught himself carpentry and is studying architecture at Kent State University.
After years of exile, many former Iraqis are waiting for flights to resume to the country. Some say they want to return permanently.
Many northeast Ohio Iraqis are turning for guidance to Nezar and Bushra Rahim, who live in suburban Moreland Hills. They were part of Iraq's wealthy elite when they left the country 30 years ago and built careers here. He's a doctor and she's a home designer.
The couple founded a group that helped resettle Gulf War
refugees such as Altaei. Nezar Rahim's niece, Rend Rahim Francke, is executive director of the Iraqi Foundation in Washington, D.C., an Iraqi exile group.
Rahim said he has talked to some 15 Cleveland-area Iraqi doctors about going on a medical mercy mission. The mission likely will have to wait until looting stops and order is restored in Iraq.
"No one is seriously thinking about going now," Nezar Rahim
said.
Mrs. Rahim said Cleveland Iraqis likely will be quick to invest in Iraqi businesses, buy Baghdad homes and visit the old country.
Badri is impatient to return, even though his wife and daughters don't want to move there permanently. A trauma surgeon, Badri said he'd at least like to start a clinic or do free surgeries for a few weeks to months at a time.
He has started a fund through National City Bank, the Save the Iraqi Children Fund, to buy medicine. He said he will travel at his own expense.
"Maybe in a week or two, something will open up," he said. "I know the landscape. I know the people. If I have to do it by myself, I'll go by myself."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)