SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- Often called the most persecuted minority in the world, Rohingya Muslims from Burma are denied citizenship in their native country. They're denied the right to marry and, in some cases, to even have children.
But on Wednesday, five religious minority refugee couples from Burma enjoyed new freedoms in the United States.
Mohamad and Ajidah Ajmal Hakim were wed alongside the four other couples in a marriage ceremony at the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie.
When the Hakims were growing up in Burma, they never expected a day like this to come.
"We never had an opportunity to get officially married when we were living in Burma. So when we came to the United States, this is a great opportunity for us," Mohamad Hakim said through an interpreter.
The Hakims, who've loved each other for years, have four daughters together. But in Burma, they were were denied the right to marry. Treated as a lower, subhuman class by the military dictatorship, they, like many, faced torture and brutality.
"They were experiencing villages being burned, mass raping of women in the villages, and men were being killed at alarming rates," said RefugeeOne's Jims Porter.
The Hakims and hundreds of thousands of others fled those conditions as refugees. Many have resettled in Chicago with the help of RegufeeOne.
"The rights that are coming along with this, along with marriage, are really, really important to these families," Porter said.
All five couples, hand in hand, expressed gratitude at the ceremony on Wednesday.
"So this is really, really exciting for us and we are thankful and we are thanks to America," Hakim said.
To learn more about refugee resettlement with RefugeeOne, head here: www.refugeeone.org.
Rohingya Muslim refugees barred from marrying in Burma celebrate rights in Skokie ceremony
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