Family reunites in Winnipeg three years after fleeing Iraq

A family separated for three years after fleeing Iraq and Syria reunited in Winnipeg on Friday.
A family apart for three years since fleeing Iraq and Syria shares its first meal together after being reunited in Winnipeg. 0:31

A family separated for 3½ years after fleeing Iraq and Syria reunited in Winnipeg on Friday.

The Hawandi family fled Iraq in 2007 after their house was bombed by militias, seeking refuge in Syria.

The Hawandi family reunites at at Winnipeg's James Richardson International Airport on Friday. (Marjorie Dowhos/CBC)
But four years later, they were chased from that home when civil unrest broke out. The parents, along with one son and a daughter, were able to get refugee status and move to Canada, but three older sons were forced to flee to Bulgaria.

This photo was taken moments after the Hawandi family's house in Iraq was bombed in 2007. No one was hurt but they fled country later that day to Syria, eventually coming to Winnipeg. (Courtesy the Hawandi family)
On Friday, those sons —​ Shareef, Muneer and Nabeel —  arrived in Winnipeg and reunited with the other four family members.

The father, Jamal, said everyone is looking forward to starting their lives together again.

"I've been crying the last three days because I couldn't believe they would come," he said.

They said they'll never likely return to Iraq and cannot thank Canada enough for letting them live here together.

"I will give to this country because they already give us something very expensive, there is no value for that," said Jamal's son Muneer.

Going forward, Jamal said the family will do what it can to give back to Canada, the country that has allowed them to be a family again.