The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 9, 2013

Helping immigrant victims of torture heal

SEATTLE — At the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq a decade ago, Wasfi Rabaa was a high-ranking police official in Baghdad, enjoying a comfortable life with his family on the outskirts of that city.

The Rabaas are Mandeans, a religious minority and followers of John the Baptist whose members have been the targets of widespread sectarian violence during the war and have sought refuge in countries around the world.

Three years ago, they were admitted to the U.S. as refugees and resettled in the Seattle area, where they receive counseling to help cope with the torture they endured during the months and years after the invasion.

Through a joint effort, Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and the International Counseling & Community Services, a program of Lutheran Community Services Northwest, are seeing to the physical, psychological and immigration needs of torture victims like them throughout the Puget Sound region.

As a way of coming to terms, Rabaa has repeatedly told his story.

In the living room of the modest home the family rents in Covington, his wife, Azhar Khissaf at his side, the 54-year-old father of four describes through an interpreter what happened to him after being kidnapped by religious extremists in 2004.

For 16 days, he said, he was held captive — hanged, subjected to electric shock and for periods at a time kept in a 3-foot-by-3-foot box.

“There was a point where I felt it would have been better if they killed me,” he said.

A serious man with a rare smile, Rabaa explains that an important part of the help he receives as part of the Northwest Health and Human Rights Project isn’t tangible. “It’s brought me stability and peace of mind and the ability to sort through things in my life,” he said through an interpreter.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Lake Huron fishery recovers, but anglers skeptical TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — More than a decade after its prized chinook salmon crashed, Lake Huron is fertile fishing territory once more, with fast-growing populations of native species such as walleye and lake trout, biologists say. Now the challen

    July 26, 2014

  • Minnesota prosecutor convicted of sex misconduct DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A jury on Friday convicted a northern Minnesota county attorney of sexual misconduct involving a 17-year-old girl after the prosecution argued the man was in a position of authority over the teenager. The jury found Cook County

    July 26, 2014

  • Some in 'torture' report denied chance to read it ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — About a dozen former CIA officials named in a classified Senate report on decade-old agency interrogation practices were notified in recent days that they would be able to review parts of the document in a secure room in suburban

    July 26, 2014

  • Police hunt for 2 who carjacked SUV, killed 3 kids PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police are searching for two men who carjacked an SUV and plowed into a group of children and adults selling fruit to raise money for their church, killing three siblings and critically injuring their mother and the carjacking vic

    July 26, 2014

  • 1 hurt in fiery Twin Cities interstate crash ROSEVILLE, Minn. (AP) — Authorities say one person was hurt in a fiery crash involving four vehicles on a Twin Cities interstate. The crash on Interstate 35 brought morning traffic to a halt during a rainy commute. The Minnesota State Patrol says a

    July 25, 2014

  • Black box found at Air Algerie wreckage site PARIS (AP) — French soldiers recovered a black box from the Air Algerie wreckage site in a desolate region of restive northern Mali on Friday, officials said. Terrorism hasn't been ruled out as a cause, although officials say the most likely reason f

    July 25, 2014

  • Ukraine reports overnight rebel attacks on border MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian army on Friday claimed that soldiers came under artillery fire from the Russian side of the border overnight and were attacked by rebels in several other places in the restive east. Ukrainian forces are trying to close in

    July 25, 2014

  • Deal still elusive for Gaza cease-fire CAIRO (AP) — Turbulent negotiations to broker a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip are continuing against the backdrop of fresh Israeli attacks on Palestinian militants. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban

    July 25, 2014

  • Transcript shows concerns during Arizona execution FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake was attending a ceremony for a judicial colleague when he received an urgent — and unusual — request: Lawyers for a condemned inmate wanted him to stop an execution that didn't seem to be workin

    July 25, 2014

  • Sniper-Author-Ventura [Duplicate] Day 3 of deliberations ends in Ventura lawsuit Jury has deliberated 19 hours

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo