Salim Taher: Flying for Freedom

Salim Taher knows what it’s like to feel caged in and will never take the freedoms the U.S. has given him for granted. On track to fulfill his dream of being a pilot, Taher’s a student that feels he has been given a second life, one that’s away from familiarity, family and friends but one that gives him opportunities he never would have had otherwise. 


When I came to the U.S. in 2009 I left behind my relatives, my house, my culture, my friends and my family. But all those things are meaningless when you get to have freedom and life.

I was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1999 and lived there for five years. Having a life torn by war, deaths and threats caused my family to have to leave our home. At that time, life was much more important than having the comfort of our house and relatives. After moving from house to house in the Middle East, from Iraq to Syria to Jordan, we finally got the chance to come to the U.S.

Hearing that news was enough to make our knees weak. After waiting for a year, going from interview to interview, standing in the hot sun for hours on end while people pushed and shoved each other to get ahead in line, nothing could have been sweeter than that confirmation. Arriving in the U.S. was also a feeling I’ll never forget. It felt like it was a different planet, a place that felt like Disneyland because of how vast and energetic everything was. I came from a country where our freedoms of walking at night, having an opinion and other basic human rights were taken away — this new openness felt unreal.

But without my experiences living in constant fear and anxiety from my country, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Having the privilege to live in a country where you aren’t judged by your appearance, religion and race is a dream most people never achieve. We all take things for granted and we feel that nothing is enough. But I have set goals for my life because life is about being yourself and persistence through everything.

When I was little I decided to become a pilot and fly for airlines. Flying always gives me a feeling of relaxation and ease from all the worries that life and responsibilities bring. I have graduated high school, and I have gotten into one of the best aviation schools in the world. I almost have my dream of being called a pilot. In the next week I will be going for my final test to become a private pilot, which is the first of many steps to becoming an airline pilot.

People in America give support to others when they are in need and they try to help each other succeed in goals. I would have been laughed at for trying to think of myself as a pilot in Iraq. Life in America is amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from this country.

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