Escape to America

The U.S. application for political asylum asks for an explanation of why the applicant is afraid to return to his or her home country.

Kalifa Ourany needed four words: “I will be killed.”

Thirty-year-old Ourany, who now lives in a small, two-bedroom apartment in Edwards with six African roommates, is from Cote d’Ivoire, a small country on the west coast of Africa.

Cote d’Ivoire was peaceful through his childhood; people would go there for asylum from uprisings in other countries in Africa.

“And then one day it just blew up,” he said.

In late 1998, changes to the government’s constitution gave the president, Henri Bédié, more power, and policy changes led to racial unrest and a government coup, according to Because Ourany’s father worked for the military, the uprising placed his family in danger. For them, the day everything changed was December 23, 1998.

Family is targeted
Ourany and his family heard shooting all day. When his father came home for lunch, the house was surrounded by soldiers from the opposing army and his father was taken away.

Ourany hasn’t seen his father since.

Two hours later, a friend warned the family that they would be killed if they didn’t get out of the country. So Ourany, his mother and his younger siblings hid their identification papers, grabbed their lunches and left. His older brother, also in the military, lived on the border and fled to Mali, where he still lives.

It took the rest of the family five days to get to Mali, usually a one- or two-day trip.

“We hid our papers and we started running,” he said. “The world was dead.”


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