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Family finds relief in U.S. from persecution in Russia

December 28, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

MAUGANSVILLE - At their new house, Navruz Muradov's family can sleep without fear of a knock on their door.

The police do not bother them anymore.

"For me, for my family, I live here two years, everything good," Muradov said.

Muradov and his wife, Barna Mirzayeva, and their two children came to America in February 2005 from Russia.

With the help of their 10-year-old son Aziz, Muradov and Mirzayeva explained they were treated as second-class citizens in Russia.

"Government tell us, 'Go to another country to live,'" Muradov said.

Many of the Meskhetian Turks, who are Muslims, have left because of persecution in Russia. The Hagerstown Refugee Resettlement office has helped 196 Russians settle here, according to figures provided earlier this month by program coordinator George Miller.

Muradov, 36, and Mirzayeva, 30, are the first of the 200-some refugees who have settled here to buy their own home, said George Miller, program coordinator of the Hagerstown Refugee Resettlement office.

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"They will be the model, I'm sure, because everybody wants to be in that situation," Miller said.

Both Muradov and Mirzayeva have worked in the U.S. Aziz and his sister, 6-year-old Feruza, go to Maugansville Elementary School.

Opportunities were limited in Russia, Muradov said.

Because the Russian government does not consider the Meskhetians full citizens, they cannot get passports or travel, Muradov said. Even so, Muradov said, his family was told to get out, and police seeking bribes visited their home threatening him with arrest.

When a police officer asked Muradov for identity papers, he faced the choice of paying a bribe or going to jail.

"I tell him, 'I have family, I have children, I don't have too much.' He tell me, 'Give me 20 dollars, 30 dollars,'" Muradov recalled.

Workers in Russia can earn $100 to $200 a month, Muradov said.

Muradov and Mirzayeva said they were not allowed to marry in Russia - they hope to share one name here - and Aziz was not welcome at school.

"My son go to school, and the teacher say, 'You needn't go to school,'" Muradov said.

Aziz, who enjoys math, said learning English was not a problem. He also speaks Russian and Turkish.

Mirzayeva said it was hard leaving family in Russia.

"We changed the life. Sometimes, sometimes, I miss ..." Mirzayeva said.

Her husband finished the sentence for her.

"Not sometimes, always," he said.

Though Muradov said he does not want to go back, he said he is hopeful Mirzayeva can visit.

"Everything is different in Russia. There wasn't any freedom there," Mirzayeva said, "Here ..."

"We are free," Aziz said.

Mirzayeva said some of her extended family has followed her to the U.S. The family also counts other refugees among their friends.

"Everybody like to come here, everybody," Mirzayeva said.

As she finished making dinner, Mirzayeva insisted a visitor stay and eat.

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