Uday Hattem al-Ghanimi represents a growing population of Iraqis who have sought political asylum and resettled in the United States after the Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. However, as the New York Times reported on Thursday, like many accomplished immigrants from other countries, Uday and his family have not been met with the welcome and opportunity for which they had hoped or were led to expect. With the wounds of war still tender, Iraqis are struggling to support themselves and their families as they face alienation in the job market and ostracism from society.
A social psychological perspective of the Iraqi experience in the United States elucidates the hardships that Iraqis are facing. Williams (1997, 2007) emphasized the profound negative effects of ostracism on individuals. Five minutes of ostracism due to exclusion from a ball-tossing game resulted in decreased self-esteem and feelings of helplessness, among other negative outcomes. Such negative outcomes are exacerbated with long-term ostracism. Williams notes that the effects of ostracism are initially felt much like physical pain, possibly reflecting overlapping neural circuitry. It seems Iraqis may have traded potential pain due to warfare for certain pain due to ostracism.