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VIDEO: On World Refugee Day, Rep. Pingree Delivers Floor Speech Recognizing Mainer Who Fled Oppression, Violence to Resettle in US

Washington, June 20, 2019

On World Refugee Day, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) spoke on the U.S. House Floor in recognition of Kifah Abdulla, a Mainer originally from Baghdad, Iraq, and a refugee. Abdulla is a published poet, performer, Arabic teacher, and activist who often speaks of the eight years he spent as a prisoner of war for his political dissent.  

To watch Pingree’s floor speech recognizing Mr. Abdulla and World Refugee Day, click here.

A full transcript of Pingree’s floor speech is as follows:

I rise in recognition of World Refugee Day and in support of the community of refugees who’ve resettled in my district.

One of those refugees is Kifah Abdulla who lived in Baghdad until war broke out at home. He spent over eight years as a prisoner of war. He was isolated because of his activism against the dictatorship. He was a refugee for 11 years in Amman, Jordan and five years in the Netherlands before coming to Portland, Maine in 2011. He is now an Arabic teacher, published poet, performer, and activist. 

There is a reason America has signed international treaties and passed laws giving shelter to those fleeing persecution. Many refugees, like Mr. Abdulla, were jailed or tortured because they protested, organized, or challenged their government. These values are at the core of our nation.

Every year, refugees travel 1.2 billion miles in search of safety. And, right now, we are in the midst of the greatest global refugee crisis since World War II. Sadly, when people fleeing violence need us the most, the Administration has dramatically reduced refugee admissions.

Let us take the story of Kifah Abdulla into our hearts and remember our responsibility as a beacon of hope and our history as a nation that was founded on principles of free expression and dissent.

In a nation where nearly all of us have come “from away”—as we say in Maine—I urge us all to make our communities warm, safe, and welcoming to refugees across the globe.

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