Long journey to the island for Jamestown Mist owners
Pay a visit to the Jamestown Mist – the new name for the former Extramart on Narragansett Avenue – and a man with a big smile and a helpful nature will more than likely greet you when you walk through the door. His name is Ali Muhajir (pronounced Mûjeer), and he is a happy man.
He “helps” his sons manage the Narragansett Avenue store, as well as another in Willamantic, Conn. He said that his son, Ranj, 26, is the owner, and his other son, Arange, 29, works for him.
His third son, Kermange, 28, has worked for the Kuwait Army for three years.
“We work together at the stores. If all goes well, we will realize success,” he said with a smile. The family has leased and managed the Connecticut store since 2006, and leased the Jamestown store last year from Drake Petroleum.
“The Jamestown store isn’t profitable yet, but as people get to know us, and realize that the new management has made many improvements and offers better service, I am sure things will turn around,” Muhajir said.
“We invite everyone to come in and meet us, and we will show them that we appreciate their business by giving them good service and products at a reasonable price,” he added.
The Muhajir family has been in the U.S. since 1997, when the government brought them to Guam from Kurdistan, where they feared persecution by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.
Their story begins after the first Gulf War, when Ali Muhajir worked as a civil engineer for the U.S. Army. He helped a non-profit organization rebuild the 5,000 Kurdish villages that were destroyed by Saddam and conflicting Kurdish factions.
Muhajir was quick to explain that the Kurdish people are a nation. A theocratic government does not govern them, he said.
“Kurds practice many different religions,” Muhajir said. “There are Muslim Kurds, Christian and Jewish Kurds. Religion is not important in the Kurdish government. Iraq wanted to claim Kurdistan as its own and take away its independence.”
In 1997, Iraq published a list of 7,000 people who worked for the U.S. and were considered spies. Ali Muhajir’s name was on that list. To be captured by the Iraqi government at that time and accused of spying would have resulted in certain death.
The U.S. moved Muhajir, his wife, daughter and three sons to Guam, where they stayed for six months before being moved to Bridgeport, Conn.
There, he worked for a bookbinder and improved his English, which he studied when he was in college in Iraq. He also managed to attend Southern Connecticut State University near Norwalk and earn his degree in engineering science. He speaks four languages – Farsi, Arabic, English and Kurdish.
Muhajir had a friend who leased four stores, and he and his sons worked for him for several years. Meanwhile, the sons attended Southern Connecticut State University and earned degrees in business and computer sciences.
In 2006, they leased their first store from Drake Petroleum in Willamantic, Conn., and they have been running it since.
When the store became available in Jamestown, Muhajir and his three sons came to inspect the facility. They decided that with some work, it could be a worthwhile business venture. They leased the store in 2009, and he says that they have been well received by the community.
Ali Muhajir lives with his wife of 31 years, Nakhshen, and his family in Bridgeport, Conn.
Two of their sons are married. Their daughter, Rabang, 20, is studying pharmacology at the University of Connecticut.
They also have a second daughter, Rewas, 9, who was born in Bridgeport and attends school there.