A young man who came to Iowa as a refugee from South Sudan has been trapped in his home country since violence broke out in December. As a teenager, Joseph Yassin came to Des Moines with his family and many other war refugees from South Sudan.
Soon after he graduated from Iowa State University in 2011, Yassin returned to the newly independent country to work for an international development agency. His brother, Nelson, says Joseph has been able to escape to a safer part of the country, but the family is deeply concerned for his safety. “He decided to go to South Sudan to help the country, to build it up. But things are going the wrong way now,” Nelson says.
To return to the states, Joseph will have to walk into Ethiopia to find transportation to an airport. Until then, Nelson says there’s not much his family can do. “We’re just hoping everything will settle in South Sudan and the war will just stop,” Nelson says. “This kind of situation, it’s just not right and it’s frustrating.”
An interfaith vigil was held over the weekend in Des Moines to call for peace in South Sudan. Community leaders estimate there are 7,500 South Sudanese people living in Des Moines.