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US Town Charlottesville Embraces Refugees, Auto Shop Business Flourishes

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In 2014, a stranded motorist left a glowing review for Larry’s Auto and Truck Repair, located on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I am in the midst of hauling my horse cross country from Northern Virginia to Denver Colorado, and as I was heading onto I64W my truck broke down…” wrote Ariel L. from Castle Rock, Colorado, on the Yelp business review website after ending up at Larry’s Auto and Truck Repair.

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“The man was literally waiting for me like a surgeon expecting a seriously ill patient being transported to the hospital. I’m not exaggerating when I say he took the keys from me, said to make myself comfortable…”

The man was Yasha Ismailov, 35, whose family owns Larry’s. He is a passionate fixer of vehicles.

“We can fix any car,” he says, “So it happens a lot of times when nobody can fix it in town, they send it here.”

Refugee Yasha Ismailov, 35, owns two business, including an auto repair shop, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (J. Soh/VOA)
Refugee Yasha Ismailov, 35, owns two business, including an auto repair shop, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (J. Soh/VOA)

It is not just that his name is Yasha instead of Larry, Ismailov is an unlikely businessman in Charlottesville. He came a long way to get here.

Long journey

A Meskhetian Turk, Ismailov was born in Uzbekistan.

Meskthetians are an ethnic subgroup of Turks that were deported in rail cars from their homeland by the leader of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin during World War II. Most of them were left in Uzbekistan.

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Ismailov was not in Uzbekistan long. “My family had to flee to Russia because there was a massacre in Uzbekistan of Turks … in 1989,” he explains. Ismailov was seven.

But Russia was no more hospitable. Meskhetian Turks were barred from citizenship, property ownership and jobs.

When the U.S. began accepting Meskhetian Turks as refugees in 2004, the family came to Charlottesville. By then, Ismailov was 22. All he, his parents and his brother brought with them were suitcases of clothes.

‘We felt safe’

Charlottesville, a small city about 190 kilometers south of Washington DC, is known to welcome refugees. More than 3,000 refugees, including Ismailov, have re-started their lives here since the late 1990s with the help of the resettlement agency, the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

“[The IRC] told me it was a nice place, good and ‘You will like it, so go there,’” says Ismailov. “We felt free. We felt better than over there. We felt safe.”

Now married to a fellow refugee, Yasha Ismailov has two children and owns his own home. (J. Soh/VOA)
Now married to a fellow refugee, Yasha Ismailov has two children and owns his own home. (J. Soh/VOA)

What followed was hard work.

“We were working so hard [the] first three years before we started [the] business. We were working four people, sometimes working double jobs,” he says.

Ismailov worked as a painter, an air conditioner installer and something he learned in Russia.

“My third job was electric,” he says. “I love electric stuff.”

And then the family bought the auto repair shop from original owner, Larry.

Harriet Kuhr, director of IRC’s Charlottesville Office says Charlottesville has jobs and opportunity to offer refugees.

“It really adds a lot of diversity, but it also adds economic impact,” says Kuhr. “So the refugees are not takers. They’re giving back by helping the community grow economically.”

Proud to contribute

Ismailov’s shop now has seven employees and repairs about 150 cars a month. He has opened another family business called Downtown Auto Sales, a used car dealership.

Ismailov is a U.S. citizen now and owns his house. He’s married to another refugee and has two children. His life in Charlottesville looks very good to him.

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“I have nice neighbors. I have a job. Nobody bothers me,” he says. “I am proud to be able to contribute to the community in Charlottesville.”

Now he is looking beyond the hard work to the future. His eight-year-old daughter is an accomplished swimmer and he hopes “one day she wins an Olympic medal for the United States.”

He also looks beyond Charlottesville to the large number of refugees around the world who have not been as fortunate as he has.

“I am lucky I am here, but they are not,” he says sadly. “I feel sorry about them. I’d like to help them with something if I can.” (VOA)

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Donald Trump Planning to meet Putin during his Asia tour

Donald Trump's first trip to Asia is the longest international tour.

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
  • US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.

Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.

The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.

Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)

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Myanmar Must Take Back Displaced Rohingya Refugees : India

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state

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Rohingya
A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India on Sunday said Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh must be taken back by Myanmar from where they have been displaced.

“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media meet also attended by her Bangladeshi counterpart Abula Hassan Mahmood Ali.

This followed the fourth India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Committee meeting.

ALSO READ US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state, bdnews24.com reported.

She said India was “deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar”.

According to latest figures from the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the Rohingyas after a series of attacks on security personnel in Rakhine.

Bangladesh Minister Ali said India was urged to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, including return of Rohingyas to their homeland. (IANS)

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Nearly 58% of Rohingya Refugees are Kids Suffering from Severe Malnutrition, Says UN Report

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

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Rohingya
Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Bangladesh, October 20, 2017 : Nearly fifty-eight per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) report also said that these children were highly exposed to infectious diseases, Efe news reported.

“In a sense it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” said Simon Ingram, Unicef official and author of the report.

Titled “Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future” was released at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

After two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, a southern Bangladesh town where nearly 600,000 newly arrived refugees are crammed into a crowd of 200,000 Rohingyas who had fled earlier, Ingram described the situation fraught with “despair, misery and indescribable suffering”.

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

The report also highlighted several drawings of children with uniformed soldiers killing people and helicopters spraying bullets from the sky.

In mid-August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out a coordinated attack on security posts in Myanmar, sparking a violent response from the military which led to thousands of Rohingyas in Rakhine state fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Ingram explained that very little is known about what is happening in Rakhine, since humanitarian agencies have not been able to enter the region since August.

Most of the refugees “are already undernourished, since the repression also included the burning of food stores and the destruction of crops”, he said.

According to the Unicef estimates, one in every five children under the age of five is suffering from acute malnutrition and about 14,500 suffer severe acute malnutrition.

Ingram explained that the main danger of infectious diseases have been mitigated with the vaccination campaign against cholera, measles and polio, but much remains to be done to tackle these risks.

He added the situation worsened with the lack of clean drinking water as these children consumed only contaminated water which is another main source of infection.

With regard to child protection, the expert welcomed the fact that the number of unaccompanied children had decreased to 800, with the identification tasks carried out by the various humanitarian agencies on the ground.

Regarding sexual abuse or forced or early marriages, Ingram explained that for now they have only punctual evidence, but that it is a real risk in any situation such as in Cox’s Bazar.

What does occur relatively frequently, he said, is child labour.

In the area of protection, the essential issue is the status of these people.

Not only do they have to be recognized as refugees, but also that newborns in the countryside or along the way, he said, should be able to obtain some kind of birth certificate.

Unicef and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are negotiating with the Bangladeshi authorities the possibility of issuing birth certificates for newborn Rohingyas, but the talks are still in process.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority that Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and are therefore stateless. (IANS)