Chattanoogan escapes Iraq nightmare and shares story
A Chattanooga man held in Iraq against his will by his own father is sharing the details about how he escaped. Nineteen-years-old in Iraq without a passport, this now Chattanoogan has a lot to be thankful for. He's seen rock bottom while stranded in war torn Iraq, now he's living the dream in the Scenic City.
"That's the ultimate dream. To make people happy. What can I do to satisfy the next person, how can I make their life easier," said Laith Altamimi.
When you're in Laith Altamimi's barber chair, it's all about you. His life's calling is to spread messages of gratitude while cutting hair. A dream that was almost cut short a few years ago in Iraq.
Altamimi said, "he rushed towards me grabbed me by my hair and that's day one in Iraq."
Day one of a long three months that started as a two week vacation and turned into his father holding him against his will.
Born in Iraq Laith and his family sought refuge in America during Saddam's reign. He spent 13 years here before his nightmare visit.
After a month in Iraq Laith's father told the family they sold everything they owned in America and they were staying in Iraq because he stole their passports.
"I felt so weak, I didn't know what to do. I finally gathered myself, I said if it's to be it's up to me," said Laith.
From a happy life in America as a college student athlete to no electricity, little food and dirty water without a passport in Iraq not to mention the target on his back for being too Americanized in their eyes.
"Somebody out here is jealous, they will take your life, they don't care," said Laith.
His father kicked him out of the house so he tried to tell the Iraqi officials he lost his passport. The family proved that was a lie and he was hours from a court date where he would spend months in prison for lying.
His last hope was the American Embassy where his American boss bought him a plane ticket and Laith was home free to chase his dreams.
"I've never felt so free. I can live the poorest life here and still be happy because I know there still an opportunity everyday to grow," said Laith.
Laith will graduate cosmetology school in a few months and unlike what it could have been - the rest is up to him.