Iraqi refugee killed in carjacking sought ‘freedom from violence’ in the US

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ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — One of the people who helped Ahmed Zainuldeen, the Iraqi immigrant killed in a carjacking on Tuesday, and his family start their new lives in the U.S. talked to FOX31.

The 23-year-old’s local caseworker said this loss will impact his family more than it appears on the surface. Anna Hanel has known the Zainuldeen family for some time.

“These are refugees who came here to seek freedom from violence and persecution,” Hanel said.

Hanel is a case worker for the African Community Center, a local refugee resettlement agency. On Wednesday, along with his family, Hanel mourns the loss of Ahmed.

“He was a bright guy,” Hanel said. “This family is fairly new to the United States.”

Ahmed Zainuldeen
Ahmed Zainuldeen was shot and killed by carjackers in Arapahoe County on Sept. 19, 2023. His family said they just moved to Denver from Iraq less than a year ago in search of a better life. (Credit: Ahmed Zainuldeen)

Ahmed and his brother, Hanel said, assimilated quickly to their new life in a new country.

“They just welcomed everything with open arms, improving their English right away,” Hanel said. “These boys, Ahmed and his brother, got jobs right away.”

Ahmed was already becoming familiar with the new community his family would come to call home.

“I was amazed at how quickly he was out in the community,” Hanel said. “He was taking the bus, he was getting to know people.”

Family had been in the US since November

The family had only been in the U.S. since last November, Hanel said.

“They were excited to start their new lives,” Hanel said.

This was after years of living in Egypt — years of bureaucratic hoops and loops. Ahmed and his family had escaped violence in their native Iraq. America was the family’s dream.

“The two sons — Ahmed, who passed away, and his brother — really support their parents. They’re working and supporting their parents, as many refugee and immigrant children, do,” Hanel said.

Ahmed and his brother, Mahmood, were the backbone of the family — their providers.

“Their sons are supporting their parents, financially, emotionally, socially, being in the United States,” Hanel said,

The family faces a new challenge: starting over again, this time in a new land without Ahmed.

“Beginning a new life here, starting from scratch, is not easy, especially not in Denver. So, this will be a challenging time,” Hanel said.

Hanel said her group and area Muslim organizations may collaborate to help the family in the meantime.

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