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Born in Basra, Iraq |

The Gulf War in the early 1990s changed Hiba’s life. Her pregnant mother had no choice but to take her to neighbouring Saudi Arabia where her father later joined them. In spite of her young age, Hiba remembers waiting for citizenship in a refugee camp just outside of the country. She also remembers how the Saudi Arabian military personnel would enter their family’s tent, and how they would often take the men away for interrogation. These memories and the feeling of hunger and thirst in the hot desert are not something she says her family remembers with regret; instead they remember it with pride. It was the bridge they needed to finally be home. When deciding the next move for his family, her father applied only to Canada as he had heard of its multicultural communities and welcoming nature. He felt that this was a place where his children would be able to live in a country where they can dream and achieve. Hiba remembers being fascinated with having, in Toronto a real home, with real walls and a room of her own.

“Toronto saved us. That is why it will always be my home.”

Toronto as Home

A corner house in Richmond Hill became Hiba’s first home and the place where she would live for 18 years. It was under this roof that she laid on the floor, looked at the ceiling and dreamt of the future. It was here that she and her siblings had group meetings to discuss what they wanted to be when they grew up and how they were all going to help each other.

“It was this house that kept us safe from rain, snow, and the summer heat as we studied, worked, played, slept, ate, laughed, cried, hurt, and did everything we can to become the best versions of ourselves.”

Connection with the Past

Hiba is holding a photograph of her and her sister in the refugee camp in Saudi Arabia. Hiba was three years old when it was taken and it illustrates the relationship she has with her sister, how they have always been hand-in-hand throughout life. When she first discovered this photo Hiba felt ashamed of her past and did not need or want reminders of it. But, as life progressed, Hiba would look at this photograph and realize how far she has come. Her history has become an important part of who she now is and she will always keep these memories alive and in her heart.

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