ISU Graduate Stranded in South Sudan Amid War

Mar 21, 2014

A young man who came to Iowa in 1999 as a refugee from South Sudan, has been trapped in his home country since violence broke out in December. 

As a teenager, Joseph Yassin immigrated to Des Moines with his family, all 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.

In December, when a new wave of violence ignited South Sudan, Joseph lived in Malakal City. After hiding out for five days, family members say he escaped to Mabaan County, where he lived as a child. To return to the states, say he’ll have to travel by foot into Ethiopia to find transportation to an airport.

"There’s nothing that we can do," said Nelson Yassin, Joseph's younger brother. He translated for their mother, who says she last spoke to Joseph last month.

"We’re just hoping everything will settle in South Sudan, the war will just stop. this kind of situation, it’s just not right and it’s frustrating," Nelson said. 

Community leaders estimate there are 7,500 South Sudanese people living in Des Moines. An interfaith vigil to call for peace will be held Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines.