Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Interwiew with Majida

Interview with Majida Hasan Mujemer from Najaf
Interviewer: Laura Hamblin
Translator: Hala Al-Sarraf
Transcriber: Laura Hamblin
East Amman 1.15.08

LH.: Could you us give your name, and age and where you’re from?
M.M.: My name is Majida Hasan Mujemer, and I’m from Najaf governorate. I was an accountant in the department of education in the Najaf governorate. I was a leader in the student’s union in the governorate, and I was in charge of the Jerusalem Army that was established during the previous administration.

L.H.: What is the Jerusalem Army?
M.M.: The Jerusalem Army is an army that stands on its own that was established by Saddam god bless his soul.

L.H.: How does it differ from the other armies?
M.M.: It’s different from the regular army because it’s an army composed of the people from the governorate to serve and protect the governorate itself.

L.H.: I’d like you to tell me your story.
M.M.: I came to Jordan on 19th of June [she misspoke here--actually it was the 19th of December 2006], so basically I’ve been here for one year. After the fall of Saddam’s regime, the Mahdi Army started looking for people like me, and then I was chased by the Mahdi Army. They crossed to our house twice and I am alone with my daughters. And that is the reason why I came here [to Amman, Jordan].

H.A.: When did you get married? What happened to your husband, and that story?
M.M.: My husband died in 2001, and it was of natural causes. He was working in the private sector. And then I became the main supporter of my family.

L.H.: How many children?
M.M.: I have four daughters. And there is no work permit in Jordan.

H.A.: How do you live here?
M.M.: I went through very difficult times until I reached here. I’ve seen days I thought I would never see. I served in the houses, and then I worked as a hostess, so these are not good days. My daughter, Sarah was born 1993, and Hernia is younger. What have they committed to work until 12:00 at night to earn five JDs per day?

L.H.: What work do they do?
M.M.: No actually they serve. My daughters have been taken by a woman who organizes parties and weddings. So she organizes parties and she takes my daughters to serve in these wedding parties, to serve food, serve drinks and help in organizing the parties.

L.H.: Is that here, or was that back in Iraq?
M.M.: No, no, in Iraq they were not working they were studying. Only here they started to work. Otherwise where can we get money to live from? The rent for our house [apartment] is 150 JDs a month.

L.H.: How much money do they get paid?
M.M.: Around 150.

L.H.: A month?
M.M.: It’s not a monthly pay only when they are asked serve, so they get like 150 JDs whenever they work. And in winter there is no work because people don’t celebrate in winter. Now I haven’t paid my rent for two months; neither have I paid for the water or electricity because there is no work in winter, so we can’t get money.
I registered in the UNHCR when I first came, and I told them get me out. Send me anywhere where you think I can live in a better life than what I am living now. Yesterday I went to renew my approval document, or my refugee document and I told them I want to go out, but nothing has happened.
Also, my daughters when they come at 12:00 at night from the parties where they work and serve, they are harassed by the guys in the neighborhood. The other day my daughter Sarah came back with tears dropping from her eyes because she was harassed by somebody who followed her up to the door. What have they committed, what sin have they committed those orphans to live this life?

L.H.: What was Iraq like for you both before the war and during the war?
M.M.: The problem is not Saddam; the problem is that in my country I would take anything to live. Now it’s over—Saddam is over. What have those dogs [referring to the government] who came afterwards done to the country since the collapse of the regime?
We have no income, we have no pensions.

H.A.: How many years have you serve in the country?
M.M.: I served for thirteen years. I have no income. I have no pension no salary. Nothing. I only came with the clothes I have. And I have asked for resettlement for a year, but nothing has happened about that yet.

L.H.: How do you afford food?
M.M.: I hardly make it. I have no body in Najaf who can send and money. I have no family here; I only have my daughters.

L.H.: So do your daughters go to school?
M.M.: Only the younger ones go to school. Because if the older ones go to school then how do we eat and how can we afford to pay the rent?

L.H.: What was life like for you during the war? Were you in personal danger?
M.M.: I was happy. I owned my house. I never thought that I would face such a day, and I never thought that life would treat me like this.

L.H.: Was there a specific thing that happened—a specific incident which made you feel like you had to leave Iraq?
M.M.: Of course. They [the Mahdi Army] crossed the fence to my house twice when I realized that I am real danger is when they killed my colleague. She’s my very good friend, and she’s one grade lower than me in the party, you know in the category. She was walking with me in the street; I just happened to be delayed, like a few steps behind her. The Mahdi Army came; they hit her very strong when she’s pregnant in the marked, she dropped the baby in the market, and they killed her. That happened in front of me. Yes—it was public it was done in the vegetable market.

L.H.: And no one did anything?
M.M.: No. Who will dare to do anything? Everybody is scared.

L.H.: What’s the situation with your house now? Do you still own your house?
M.M.: My house, I have a share in the house. It belongs to many inheritors, so the other inheritors are taking the house.

L.H.: Do you see yourself ever being able to go back to Iraq?
M.M.: No. It is impossible for me to go back. I have four daughters. I’m not going to sacrifice them.

L.H.: What do you think has to happen in order for there to be peace in Iraq?
M.M.: What do you think can happen after the fact that Maliki is in power and [with] this poor performing group? Nobody is coming to build Iraq. Everybody is coming to build their own interests. Everybody is taking whatever he wants [for him] self.

L.H.: Do you think the situation would improve, stay the same or get worse if the US military were to leave?
M.M.: Of course if the U.S. military leaves Iraq it will get worse because the country will be left for the thieves only.

L.H: Where do you see yourself in five years?
M.M.: I really don’t know where I’ll find myself.

L.H.: Where do you see your daughters?
M.M.: There is no security in this country. My only hope is if I get a chance to take my daughters out where they’ll be safer.

L.H.: What’s your best memory of Iraq?
M.M.: I remember the good days I had in Iraq, which turned to be very bad now. I remember my family, I remember my relatives. Those days I remember.

L.H.: How is your extended family, your parents and your siblings?
M.M.: Yes, they get in touch with me and they’re fine.

L.H.: They are safe? They are not in harm?
M.M.: No, they are safe. Nobody is threatening them because I was on my own and I lived on my own [I was threatened].

L.H.: How do you spend your days here?
M.M.: If I find a job, I go out and do some work. Other wise I sit home. How can I spend my days? And winter is difficult because there is no work.

L.H.: So have you’ve been here for two years?
M.M.: On the 19th of December 2006 I came, so it’s only been one year.

H.A.: Did you bring money with you?
M.M.: Yes, I brought a little money but they are done, they are finished now.

L.H.: What do you see as your greatest needs right now?
M.M: I need everything. Everything.

L.H.: What makes you laugh?
M.M.: I will laugh, I will be happy to leave this country, because I’m tired of this country. I’m tired of protecting my daughters and I’m tired of looking for a job myself.

L.H.: Is there anything you’d like to say which we haven’t asked?
M.M.: No

H.A.: How do you get your health need, how do you get your health services done?
M.M.: Through the Jordanian Red Crescent here. In the last fifteen days I have developed diabetes and high blood pressure. So I am going to the center because I keep thinking of the girls, because of the sorrow I live in, so I have been going to the center. Now I am on treatment so they give me medication to organize the level of sugar in my blood.

L.H.: Are you on insulin or just pills?
M.M.: I’m on pills.

H: Who pays?
M.M.: I don’t pay when I go. The two daughters are attending school. They don’t pay. I only pay the 13 JD for each one of them. The third daughter was enrolled in school, actually she was in a private school to study [?] Islam, but I had to stop her because she needs to work and help her sister in earning money.

H.A.: Did you get any opportunities; do you get any food aid, blankets from CARE or any organization?
M.M.: No I have been kicked out when I went to Care.

L.H.: What did they say?
M.M.: It’s been one whole year now. They tell me go, and when it’s time we will come and interview you and visit you, and it’s been already one year. So again, I went to [?] and I tell them you are to support orphans and my daughters are orphans—they have no father—can’t I enroll them with you? And say it’s not with us; their names are not with us so they have to come from another area. So I couldn’t register them. So basically the whole family is dependent on Sarah and Hanina and Sarah is fourteen and Hanina is thirteen years old.

L.H.: May I interview your daughters?
M.M.: Yes

L.H.: Could you all tell me your names and ages?
Sarah Hasan Aziz and I’m fourteen years old.
Hanina Hasan Aziz and I’m thirteen years old.
Sabrine Hasan Aziz twelve years old.
Fatima Hasan Aziz and I’m seven.

L.H.: You have lovely daughters—beautiful, beautiful. Do you understand the project that I’m doing here? [H.A. explains]
Sarah: I finished until sixth year primary school. And then I stopped studying because my mother joined work and Fatima was a baby so I stopped studying to work.

L.H.: Until sixth grade? Would you like to continue your studies?
Sarah: Yes, I was hoping I could continue my studies and become a doctor.

L.H.: How old were you when the war began?
Sarah: I was nine years old.

H.A.: Were you veiled in Najaf?
Sarah: Yes. Now I’m used to taking off the veil, I’m used to going without it.

L.H.: How do you spend your days?
Sarah: I met this woman through my mom’s uncle who knows her, and they told us about her. The lady would take us in a group and we would go to halls, to wedding halls. We go to Zahran in Amman, in zhab and we go to Arena [Hotel] in Gardens, and she takes us back at night. [26min]

L.H.: Do you serve the tables?
Sarah: Yes. We start at five o’clock and we continue until ten or eleven and sometimes we stay until one o’clock in the morning. I don’t wash dishes, I just serve the food and sometimes I organize the tables and remove the chairs. The woman pays five JDs and sometimes she pays seven JDs. Sometimes it’s continuously parties, and sometimes nothing. For the last couple of months there has not been any served party.

L.H.: What is your best memory of Iraq?
Sarah: The whole Iraq is beautiful.

L.H.: Give me an example
Sarah: I miss my grandfather’s house and I miss my uncles.

H.A.: Have you been to the capital?
Sarah: Yes, I was very young when I went, and I don’t remember it very well. I was born in Baghdad in Kazmiyah Area.

L.H.: When you look at your future do you see yourself going back to Iraq?
Sarah: I don’t know.

H.A.: How long after your arrival did you start work?
Sarah: After we ran out of money, around two months.

H.A.: Would you have rather studied here?
Sarah: Yes, but the English part, which is very difficult here.

H.A.: Do you have fiends?
Sarah: Yes.

H.A.: Iraqi or Jordanian?
Sarah: I keep away from Iraqi friendships because I always end up with problems with them, so I keep distance. Yes, it’s because of work, because there is a competition for work.

L.H.: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sarah: I see myself getting out of this to any other country.

L.A.: Is there any message you’d like to give to people in the west?
Sarah: Basically just [I want] to leave this country [Jordan].

L.H.: May I interview you Hanina?
H.A.: The meaning of her name [Hanina] is nostalgia—being kind, belonging to something. Do you have nostalgia for Iraq?
Hanina: Yes.

L.H.: How old were you when the war began?
Hanina: I am only one year younger than her [referring to Sarah—meaning Hanina was eight when the war began]. I loved Sarah but I loved studying now [?]

L.H.: What grade did you finish?
Hanina: I just now left studying, just before mid term. It wasn’t because the education was hard but we needed somebody to work and support the family. I go with my sister to the halls and we work together there.

L.H.: Do you like your work?
Hanina: I need it.

L.H.: Bit if there isn’t a lot of work now because it’s winter why isn’t she still in school?
M.M.: It’s difficult that she goes in and out of school. It has to be always.

L.H.: What is your best memory of Iraq?
Hanina: I love the whole of Iraq and my I love my grandfather’s house and my family.

L.H.: How long has it been since you’ve seen your grandfather?
Hanina: One year.

L.H.: Are you able to communicate with them at all?
Hanina: Sometimes.

L.H.: What message would you give to westerners?
Hanina: I want to tell them that we are really suffering here and our hopes are that the UNHCR will do something to take use out of here. The difficulty I face here is that always men harass us. They always say things to us, and we don’t like that.

L.H.: Do they know that you are Iraqi?
Hanina: Yes.

L.H.: You’re so young to have to deal with that.
Hanina: The perception is when we are coming home late at night we are doing something else. And the perception is that Iraqis do these things, so they tell us things we don’t want to hear.

L.H.: I’m sorry. That’s terrible for little girls. Do you really have to worry about the immigration officers as well?
Hanina: Yes we do worry about them because we don’t have residency so we are subject to the immigration officers. The immigration officers, they go to the party halls and when the immigration officers come to the halls, the hall owners tell us to hide so we hide under the tables because they look for Iraqis. So the guy tells us so we hide.

L.H.: Do you sleep well?
Hanina: Yes, we sleep in the daytime.

L.H.: Do you have a best friend here?
Hanina: We’re not dear friends, you can’t say “best friends” but we have friends and they are from work.

L.H.: So what do you do for fun?
Hanina: I have no time. I enjoy my time with my sisters and sometimes when I go to work I have fun with the friends at work, but we have no time.

L.H.: May I interview you? How old are you Sabrine?
Sabrine: I’m not very cleaver, I’m medium; I’m average in class. But my problem is that the boys in class, they always make fun of me because I’m Iraqi.

L.H.: What do they say?
Sabrine: The boys make fun of us. The guy makes fun of my name, and he tells my friends to call me different names, so together with another Iraqi girl, so they also make fun of me.

H.A.: Does the teacher allow this treatment?
Sabrine: They are not scared of the teacher. The teacher smacks them but they are not afraid of the teacher, and they continue calling me these things.

L.H.: What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like to study?
Sabrine: I like math, Arabic, and religious education.

L.H.: Math—that’s very good!
H.A.: Did you attend school in Iraq?
Sabrine: Yes. Both of them were nice. The ones in Iraq were easier, but the ones in Jordan are better.

L.H.: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Sabrine: A doctor.

L.H.: Hanina, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Hanina: A pediatric [doctor]

L.H.: And, how about you?
Sarah: I had the wish to become a doctor and serve free of charge.

L.H.: What type of doctor do you want to be?
Sabrina: An ophthalmologist. When I was living in the other neighborhood, there was a girl who was always smacking me. And when I tell her why do you hit me, she tells me, “I am free to do what I like to do—you are living in my country.”
L.H.: Oh, I’m sorry. It’s not easy for little kids. . . .

H.A.: Do you like Jordan?
Sabrine: Yes, I like Jordan.

L.H.: What do you like to do you like to do in your free time? What do you do for fun?
Sabrine: My friends in school are Iraqis and Jordanians, and I enjoy having fun with them at school.

L.H.: What’s your best memory of Iraq?
Sabrine: Iraq is my family, is my grandparents’ house, is my whole country.

L.H.: You sound like you have wonderful grandparents. That’s all their favorite place to be. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sabrine: I would love to see myself back in Najaf in five years.

L.H.: What would you tell western people about your life here?
Sabrine: I would love to tell that I want to be in another country because everybody hates us here.

L.H.: Do any of you have memories of the war itself, of soldiers?
Sabrine: We were afraid because we used to see the dead bodies in the streets in front of us, and they were carrying those bodies in a push carriage, and we see cut arms.
M.M.: When there is an opposition between the Mahdi army and the police, the bodies are left in the street.

H.A.: Were you there during the attack in Najaf during [Iyad] Allawi’s time?
Sarah: When we were seeking refuge in grandparents’ house in Diyala [another governorate] and we were going to shelters to hide. We remained like two days in the shelter and we had nothing, no food to eat. We remember that, and it wasn’t only us it was everybody else, the whole people were with us in the shelter.

H.A.: Were you worried about your mom’s safety?
Sabrine: Yes for sure.

L.H.: Tell me about your mom, what’s she like? Forget that she’s sitting here.
Hanina: Our mother was our mother and father at the same time. She never made us feel that we need anything else for us. She was the compensation of the father for us.

L.H.: Do you have memories of your dad?
Sarah: We were very young.

H.A.: Are there things that you wish to have that you cannot have?
Hanina: Yes, my wish is to see Iraq back healthy again and that everybody will go back.

L.H.: When do you think that will happen?
Hernia: It will take a long time.

L.H.: Can I bring the little one in and take a photo?
H.A.: I want to ask the mother—you belong ideologically to a different thought—as a Ba’ath party member. I want to see it from the women’s perspective in the Ba’ath party.
M.M.: I can speak for my state—in Najaf—women were more liberated before than they are now. Before, women used to join the work force and they had their full share of everything, but now since the Mahdi Army took over, they don’t allow women to leave the house and therefore women are staying in the house.

H.A.: What do you think of women training on weapons like we saw them on TV in Karbala?
M.M.: This is driving us all backward. Believe me this is all for destructive purposes. Nobody has come to fix the city or work for the city.

H.A: How do you see women in Najaf? The same women [who] were before—during Saddam—are the same women living now. How do they . . .

M.M.: Women[’s] role is very limited now in Najaf because of the strong group of the religions men. So from hamal, akim [?] to the Mahdi and others, women’s role has been diminished and now they—women are even veiling their faces so that nobody recognizes their faces. This is all limitation to their active participation [in society].

H.A.: Can women change the situation?
M.M.: Impossible. They [the religious extremists] are in full control of the country.

H.A: Do you know of women leaders who can work to change the situation?
M.M.: I wish I would have been the first one to do so if it is possible.

L.H.: [to Fatima] What’s your best memory of Iraq?
Fatima: When we were living in Iraq. . . . Najaf.

L.H.: What do you like to play the best?
Fatima: I don’t have toys to play with. I don’t have a doll.

L.H.: You don’t have a doll?
Fatima: No, no dolls.

L.H.: Do you have a ball?
Fatima: No

L.H.: Do you have a jump-rope?
Fatima: No. I don’t play with toys. I just play with my friends.

H.A.: What would be a toy that you would love to have?
Fatima: Fulla.

H.A.: This is equivalent to Barbie.
L.H.: I know Fulla.

L.H.: I want to know [from] all of them. What toy would you like?
Sabrine: Me? I would like Fulla.

L.H.: Everybody likes Fulla.
Hanina: She wants an Islamic Fulla.

L.H.: Oh, the one with the abaya?
Sabrine: I think it’s nicer.

L.H.: With the whole abaya or just the hijab?
Sabrine: It’s nicer than unveiled.

L.H.: How about you two? What would you like?
Hanina: We like sports.

L.H.: Oh you like sports?
Hanina: We would love to have a training suit. We like boots or track suits.

L.H.: Well, you have an amazing family. Is there anything that any of you would like to say in closing?
M.M.: I wish we could receive any kind of support whether the UNHCR to take any action to take us out, or any agency to provide us any aid. As you can see we are a family of four [children] and all of them are young. Any kind of support that could come would help.

L.H.: Ok. Thank you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hania Al Obaidi

Interview with Hania Al.Obaidi
Interviewer:Laura Hamblin
Translator:Blsam Abd Lkareem
Transcriber:Anoud Halasa 

L.H:Now telling us your names, your ages, & were are you from?
Balsam: my name is balsam,balsam abd l kareem Hani,iam a dentist iam 48 yrs old iam grandmother now, this is my daughter Hania.
H.O:hi my name is hania iam 32 yrs old
L.H:32???? Oh come on…
Hania:23….. because of this baby,,this is my baby yousef,he is my grand son.
L.H: Could we see his hair?
L.H:Ohhh,how old is he?
H:he is now 2 months..
Balsam:1 week to the two months..he didn’t complete….he's 7 weeks.
L.H:Oh wow that's good.Now talk about your study & collage?
H.O:iam industrial designer.studied in a school for fun musical balleh,elemantery and secondary in Baghdad,after (?) a balarina,she went to an academic of art ,undergrads,she studies industrial designs…
L.H:What happened?
H.O: In my second year of undergrade's studies I was engaged to my husband,I was engaged for two years I cant get married because of the responsibilities that encounter my studies..i loved my studies in undergrads in general interior design specialize in specific area ,in my case I love industrial design so I was (?) and according to the regulations at the university of Baghdad,it could be more involved or specialized if we are chosen as the best students for the morning studies and the afternoon studies in the university,so I became the 1st student above all,because I love to do my graduate program in industrial design.
For my forth year of study, before graduation as a requirement for graduation I have to do two projects for special design .one is signed as a specific idea ,it's a furniture the another one has to be a unique idea and (?) power instrument that should be unique of its design.before graduation,I did my research,I thought of a machine that we do (?) on remote control, and for that I have to connect with all the electrical engineers to build a circumistance,it was a challenging idea.But in that time the situation in the surrounding neighbourhood was becoming worse as well as the situation in the country that was not very situated.
H.L:What time is this?
H.O:It was last year.i wasn’t able to connect with all (?) because of the situation,I had to change my idea into a hoover like.it's an instrument that wipes floor on remote control industry.So I have to be able to make a simple idea because I have to present it for the final exam exhibition before the graduation those who failed to exhibit it for the final exhibition are not graduated even though if they had scored the best results for the year required they have within the idea…..
In condition of that, starting with my 1st idea which I had to design an external cover for the instrument because I have to change the idea..
I didn’t measure much time for my sec idea , so I have to go for a simple thought and simple design just to (?) the time for the requirement for my graduation.
It has to do it from A to Z.
Something (?) they have to design every singal detail for the pieces keeping the external cover (?) they have to design it ,they have to build the set where they manufactured.They maybe(?) for making(?) from fiber glass,the cover has to be thick with colors.
L.H:This is after your graduation's level?
L.H: Wow..
H.O:The problem I faced with my education with my year of my industrial design when I be apart to a place on my 1st year after finishing my 1st year of industrial design.at the university my full reliance and everybody's reliance in industrial design is on the work show that attached to our studies because basically all the woods will be get it from the work show (?)the design for every instruments we need even the material to set our models,to build our designs are available in the work show and they would be provided it would be easy only we put our ideas ..
And what happens in the war & because of the war,there's a piece of work was stolen,it was luted, therefore we had to suffer with the struggle with the exhibition of our ideas and projects,so finally I managed to present my instrument for the exhibition (?)
So professor Mohammad who was the one who saw my exhibition(?) he really liked the idea so much…called for many journalists to interview with me ,,I deserve be happy for it and the(?) to generize it for Germany because our baseful in the industrial design is germany and germany is fulling informed of what we have ever developed within our areas of study.
So before that,He Cheking my idea together with other ideas to germany who share it to the students there & the students were fascinated with our project such as my idea.He said you should continue exchanging ideas to the students abroad than ourselves, & also he said to me that you have when graduate you have to join the university to be one of our faculty and become one of our staff so that you work with us on projects.
H.O:I was asked by a professor to apply for(?) because my equipment was unique and as I am started the process and I was doing the heater well signature…
(?) unique position make me(?) I was faced with the situation that the family was threatened and I had to leave the country even in terms I couldn’t even get my equipment a piece of equipment because it belongs to the university which becomes part of (?) exhibition of the university so I couldn’t get it.It was very difficult for me to make a new one because it's a very complicated process to do.
So I was promised by the professor that just to be invited to the university because he would put my name in a list of people who gets a scholarships to go and finish their education in Germany,and one specific Germany is becoming(?) the industrial country where ideas could be implemented and ideas ended up studying and continue my digree,but it still didn’t happen.
So I was very securative I woulnt be the best student in the class, because only best students can get the opportunity to get the scholarships,this student it means the highest scores ,I was so afraid because the kind of his study that we had is very unique.it's not available in any other arab's country so I had no way to go except to Jordan or Syria for my(?) they told me bye the telephone that I was selected as the best student for the best(?) but I lost the joy of receiving it myself they had to communicate the information for me on phone even if they were the best memories we had to the student's(?) it's the day when the photos collected,photos taken they prepared for it,it's an important day in the student's life even it was a bad day.we were very(?)prepared than (?) surrounded by focus, and planes were (?) we couldn’t reach the university to take our graduation's photos.
It was very sad for my males colleagues because iam the only female who studies this branch and iam the only graduate,not a woman at night,not a girl at night for this branch of study ,iam the only one (?) I couldn’t make it for the graduation there.
L.H: What day was that?
H.O:It was(?)
All the male colleagues of my (?) told me and they said that all the cars decorated,they had all the music people,I couldn’t get there to (?) so they promised that they would make a special graduation ceremony for the new situation.
(?) It seems that iam unlucky of my graduation's photos because we scheduled after 10 days they do it,at this time I was ready and as I was preceeding to do it,I received a call from my younger sisters who were shouting and crying,they said dad is in blood because it has been an explosion .so in that same day, my father had been an accident, there was an explosion in the car,he was bleeding so I had to stop again to the hospital,seems I was not lucky to celebrate my graduation's day,but despite everything my colleagues (?) to hospital and want to see him,and when I saw that he is ok ,my friends decided that met us no matter just to take(?) because we had to do it when we are on the other side (?) this is in my case….
Then our instruments in our college with the exhibits we were asked to exhibit in the main university which is in Baghdad at different locations and at the same time we were asked to submit the photos of our instruments and equipments in American's exhibition,American's university asked for to see participate with our photo images of the equipments,we notice the participant in the U.S university exhibition and match to take the photos images of our instruments but yet we couldn’t go and participate in the(?) exhibition in the main university,because it was difficult to transfer the equipment from one location to another inside Baghdad (?) to the state.we were not sure that our instruments will not be stolen on the road or even had been saved to the university,it's an expensive equipment that he(?)
By that time I had a break with one of my two tutors to pass me the good news about my graduation, because it has noway to get to the university,we have received our certificate by that time.The 1st threat that we have received was through the examination's time that we couldn’t leave the house of my family,so two of my colleagues came and picked me up to the university to (?) from the exams because my family couldn’t leave..
So as a department of the requirement of the master's degree,program is to take a computer training course and to trust becoming one of the(?) even though I had a computer training but I have to attend one of the colleges to obtain some(?) from there.Regulation of the course was the(?) I convinced it one week because I knew all the material(……?....). we were there, we heard gun shots,and he heard lots of gun shots and disturbing the university,it was one of our female students,female colleagues who got killed shot inside the uni inside our location where we horrified in..
L.H:What was the ( postpone?)?
H.O:This was at the university that simply crossed the road from where I (met)? Ibn Al Haitham university and then forced students were even pregnant she was in the uni center,the collage center,and we were conforming the exam on one of these homes,& all are not inside where we were,& we were not allowed to go down and even our families couldn’t come and take us ,we didn’t understand why…
L.H: Do you know who shot them?
H.O:It was just a car passing by that,shot them and continue.
L.H: Do u think it was a random shot or(?)???
H.O: No it was intended for her because we were all from different study or intention.This is graduate program's exam,so one of the other girls who knew that one ,she said that she was very innocent person that had no harm on anybody but she was killed.We were watching the whole thing from up floor,and it was very scary because the collage's guys and the university's guys came all around and (?) closed the gates.The army were surrounding and also we were afraid because the American came to check the incidents,& we know that Americans if anybody shoots randomly they would shoot anybody in the surrounding ,we were staying in the hall that all was surrounded with glass and were so scared that if anything happens we don’t know what we have to do.
So in that time ……? I have received…..?i decided to leave ,so my father and my brother left the country first because theye were expecting to care for our departure.My mother stayed behind me because she knew how much I (?) this graduate study & it an opportunity for me that nobody gets easily,so she stayed behind me before until I finish that course….
L.H:Could you tell me more about the threat?
How was the threat and why?
H.O: So we all know in Iraq that (?) are so different basically anything that should …..(?) that families of good standard are subject to threat some engineers ,some doctors.even one's house or a person who is a figure in his society is a subject to threat,so there are so many reasons of threat that nobody knows why…
So in our(?) we are a family that is known in our community that could be ok,our house shows that we are(?) my father is an engineer,my mother is a doctor. So we are people who can pay(?) that's why(?)
At that time my father and my brother left to Jordan for some reasons or the other (?) obstacles(?)to enter to Jordan so my father was permitted to enter Jordan but he had to leave my brother to return back to Iraq,so my father wouldn’t let him go back so he returned with my brother again.
L.H: So did u get to the border?
The father and the son got to the border and then came back again..when they came back,I finished my course,but at the same time I was engaged so I have to marry because (it would be?) two years engaged without marriage so I could be registration, several registration, I left Iraq to come to Jordan without my husband..It was on the same day we had been the ceremony the signature I left…So when we decided to come on the bus here to Jordan they allowed again allowed us to enter and my brother didn’t allow him in,so he had to go back to Syria this time and stayed in Syria my husband in his turn decided to join me & again he wasn’t allowed to enter so he joined my brother in Syria ,so we have my brother and my husband in Syria we don’t know why is this happen,because from the time of the war till the time when we decided to settle in Jordan we were coming three times a year,in every time we were entering without any problem, while the situation became so bad that the choices came(?) that they were not even allow to Jordan.So they had to remain in Syria for 6 months without knowing their destination (?) because they couldn’t back to Iraq where they are threatened or come here because they are not allowed to enter.
So after six months of staying in Syria my brother tried to enter again and in this time he managed to enter but my fiancé was not allowed to enter,my husband then decided to return back to Iraq because by that time he finished his money, he had not to come,he was very(?) to Syria and living, and there was no work opportunity so he returned
Back to Iraq.
L.H: (what is year this now?)?
H.O:That's last year.My husband tried 8 times to join us taking different tools ,by land comes Syria to Jordan but it didn’t work,by land come Baghdad to Jordan also didn’t work,by airport Baghdad to Jordan doesn’t work ,Syria to Jordan ,8 times,8 different times you must flying they didn’t want,and we were so scared because we know that since you go back if any family's member is threatened(?) the rest of the family or like another member of the family as a hostage until they finish the money,so it's not only a threat for him but for any member of his family that was a kidnapped ,he would have to pay or somebody would have to pay instant.
L.H:What was the rashional that they were giving him in turned him away?
H.O:There was nothing acceptable or logical basically young people are not allowed to enter Jordan,young single people,at one stage they put a poster signs and say Iraq(?) between ages 16_36 are not allowed to enter Jordan.
L.H:Is that male and female or just male?
H.O:No it’s just male.so one time they say, we don’t take young people and other time they said there's a stamp refused stamp(?) passport so we cant get in until passing 24 hours,so they remaind in the desert for 24 hours until the time passes he tries again and again ,they were(?)
L.H:could your husband(?)???
H.O:My husband finished accounting same like me he did a project with my brother to have car sales exhibition and was successful business but they had to close it as they left Iraq,so in his business in Iraq every time a car's explosion happens or a car wants explode it was very scary because the American's hammers would come to their exhibition (?) break glass,break defence and with their hammers have to (?) all cars(?) in one of these exhibitions,one of these workshops that cars get(?)
& then they discovered that there's nothing,so typical they would take photos of the place & then they would give us papers and then they tell us go and ask for compensation of the damage cost of course nobody goes there and to go And ask for compensation because we receive a threat of life so we move (?)
L.H:Now can we say that if an individual would to go to U.S head quarters asked for compensation ,someone else in the community would see them and would elaborate with Iraqis and make a threat?????
L.H:We don’t know but currently(?) much money to be existent,it comes to our friends,making a beautiful vella,very nice place,they furnished it to the top furniture it was top glass(?) they exploded everything ,they damaged everything and then they said :"Oh" it was a mistake,we meant to go to the house behind your house but now you take the mistake itself,,come and take the compensation and after taking photos and everything,come and take your compensation.when this person of our friends went to take his compensation or claim,he received a contact or he was contact to threat ,if you come here again or if you try to come you would be killed,he was trying to explain to those people that I don’t elaborate with them,I just need to take what my(?) are because I know (………..?).
So finally they decided to close the business because it doesn’t work well,this business is basically they were trading cars that belong to individual owners,so if those people come and relay and explode cars and damage cars,break windows,from where they gonna get the money and compensate for the people who leave their cars in the exhibition in the exhibition place,How much do they get instead so they cant afford(?) so they closed the business and finished it.So when I came to Jordan and I gave up hope (her husband) he was thought her fiancé that he's gonna be allowed inside Jordan then we decided to do our wedding in Syria.
So by December 2006 we decided to do our wedding in Syria it was difficult because it was examination's time and my sisters were attending to school that was finally decided to go for the marriage because my mother saw that I was so depressed I was continuing the prime for 6 months,everytime that they say they are coming we come happy and (?) then they end up the lock in a room in an airport,and they are not allowed in.
So usually the way they're treated them,when they came from airport locked in a room 2 by 2 where every other Iraqi is kept in the same room,that not allow to eat,not allow to drink,and not allow to go to toilet.
My brother had to knock their door very hard and he was telling shouting at them,what was the crime that we committed? We have coming to a sister country because we have threatened for death in our own countries,what is the crime that we have committed that we are treated this way(?) respect or turn us with our dignity, we don’t(?)
So finally they allowed an Egyptian worker to be(?) by them to bring them food with all inside (?)
Every time they tried to enter to airport,this was the(?) until one of the cases they were kept for 2 days,until another plane came to take them back to Syria.so when they came by road then they would be stayed in the desert where there's no food or water,so finally when I went to Syria we had to do the wedding in 4 days so that my mother and my sisters go back and I remained in Syria for 6 months.
I did become pregnant during 6 months and it was very bad for me to stay in Syria since there's no more work ,again we tried to enter Amman but they didn’t allow him in.
H.O:It doesn’t go this way,even she has a resident,even (?) is Jordanian,we come to the border they would allow me in but not him.so he had to go back to Iraq and I went to work and I came to Amman because I was very much disturbing with my pregnancy.
L.H:what work would he do?
L.H:Ah ok he went to work….ok
H.O:He stood not get a job in Iraq because work opportunities in Baghdad are dominated by people who are taking whole of the positions who bring only the relatives and people who they know to work.
I decided that I should try my opportunity to work because iam the kind of a person who cant sit at home,and iam a designer so I don’t want to stop,I couldn’t do faster the opportunities ,so I don’t know where iam settling yet,so I didn’t want to commit,then I tried to find a job for opportunities because I like continue and make caricature figures so I started looking for a work in newspapers and children's magazines, I decided to take my line as to quit Iraqi's situation and caricature figures
L.H:Are they gravity nobles, or cartoon nobles?
H.O:Cartoons but only about Iraqi's situations
L.H:right that's good,so even when I was in Iraq I was doing for the newspaper al Siasy and al Watan,I was doing caricatures figures about these situations in Iraq.
L.H:so would u doing political cartoons?
L.H:Could I see some of themplz?
H.O: yes, but she doesn’t have them now but she is sttending to send us by email..
L.H:Could I use them in this production?
L.H:Thank you
L.H:Do you have something else?
H.O:( ……………?………….)
L.H:what about the birth of your child? Is he there for that?Has he seen his son?
H.O:the problem is that if I tried to go to Syria,I will might not be able to enter again but if he comes to Syria (?) because Iraqi are rejected now no matter what they do.
So he finalley asked me to come to Iraq,so that he could see his son ,but I'm so scared to pick my baby there,because iam not sure we can provide(?) care for him,iam not even sure(?) I cant imagine in his(?) iam not sure of….
Iam asking her marriage ia a love story so they are a kind of bomb when(?)
She said that he was even worried about me having my pregnancy in Iraq because of the(?) so when I had a neighbor ,he was so afraid that my neighbor would be on time(…?.) ( I couldn’t hear the rest of the answer and the question after)
H.O:You could call the emergency but then they either come or they don’t.So my husband's friend's wife she was a (labor?)and when she couldn't go through the (?) ,she had to wait 6 hours and the(?) was over.
Besides other obstacles for example my blood's tipe is negative,so I need to take an injection,so iam not sure we will find that injection so he was so scared that I (?)
(?) my baby when I was in the neighbor hood there's noway that I could take my baby to Iraq and I cant stay in Syria without a job,so I don’t know what is the end of this story.So finally I agreed with one of my colleague students to try to get my certificate's graduation's certificate from my university because then I would probably be able to apply for studies abroad here I couldn’t do that because the equivalent to my studies would be interior design and my (?) is not interior design,,,industrial design specific.
So I would have form another attempt is to take my certificate and tour in the embassies on the hope that somebody would accept to give me approval for studies,I know this is very dare opportunities because all the Iraqi people are rejected for(?????)
L.H:Iam so sorry
H.O:No it's ok
L.H:No it's not ok,it's horrible.,please could u say your name?
H.O: H.A.N.I.A…..O.B.A.I.D.I
So finally I decided to take my graduate (?) for embassies hope and wish for the German embassy , for an example to give me opportunity to study.this is my last hope..but because when I called the professor ,the tutor who had promised me that I should take this scholarship in Germany when I come back to the embassy…
I told her about what happened,she told me that the professor who promised you this himself received a threat and he left the university to go to study teach in (?) college.
L.H:Was the professor(?)?
H.O: He had told us this before although he went to Germany and prepared for us to go and do our scholarships there but he did tell us that he doesn’t expect to stay because of this subject of threat,like any other doctors who were teaching in the university…He went to (?) university because the situation is better there,so I lost hope,I will try again but I know that nothing will happen but I have to try.
L.H: are you still making ( political cartoons?)?
H.O: yes but iam free (?)
L.H: So u don’t study or work?
H.O: *( I didn’t understand the answer well)
L.H: where do u see yourself after 5 years ( graduation)?
H.O:* ( again couldn’t here it)
(………..?......) options to go back to Iraq with my baby!! No, absolutely no..
H.O:In Amman no way because how long (is he left)* without seeing his son?
So if he goes to Syria,he may be allowed to enter or not (?) and if I want to see him ,I don’t know if I would be allowed back to Jordan.
L.H: Is there anything new you want to tell the people in the west to understand better the situation there,the situation of Iraq?
H.O: Not all the Iraqis are bad people, so we didn’t do anything wrong to be so much blames by western countries as well as Arab countries.
Many(?) Iraqis were harmed by the distorted image that was presented about Iraq….
( the last two lines were not so clear) so sorry * 

Nadima Ibraheem/Hala's mom

Interview with Nadima Ibraheem (N.I.)
Interviewer: Laura Hamblin (L.H.)
Translator: Hala Al-Sarraf
Transcriber: Reine El-wer
East Amman 11/18/2007

L.H.: Name and age.
N.I.: My name is Nadima Ibraheem Kadem and I am 76 years old.

L.H.: Where are you from?
N.I.: I am from Baghdad.

L.H.: I would like you to tell us your story, and begin with what your life was like before, during Saddam's regime, during the fall, the war, how did you come here?
N.I.: During the time of Saddam we lived a life with very low pension salary; we used to take what is equivalent to 5 JDs, which wasn’t enough for buying a tray of eggs. We were not allowed to travel for 20 years during Saddam time. And then, a start of a wave of thieves and criminals in houses, and we witnessed a wave of raiding houses criminals, killing people in their houses and stealing their property. It happened to me personally, twice they raided my house. I was living n my house alone and I have a basement with windows entering to the basement, they broke the bars on the windows of the basement, they went to the basement but I had built the entrance of the basement to the rest of the house so they did not manage to come to me.

L.H.: Who is "they" and what is the time period?
N.I.: It was the time like 3-4 years before -she calls it revolution- against him, against Saddam, by 3-4 years and then it became very dangerous for me to live alone.

L.H.: What year are you speaking of? What time during?
N.I.: 2000. The next time they came to my house it was from the sealing, where they tried to make a hole in the sealing of the bathroom. My neighbors felt that and they started shooting in the air, and then they were afraid and escaped.
Since that time, I left my house and my furniture, and until today I never lived n my house again. Then I came to El-karrada area where I lived with my daughter. I have nobody. And then the Bush war started. I escaped with a family, with whom I rented a car to the Syrian border. At that time we rented the car to go to Syria, we paid 1000 dollars for the car rent. Just as we arrived at the check point in Traibeel, they closed the border and said nobody is allowed to leave the country anymore. Then we wanted to stay at the border country but we were told that they are going to bomb the border point so we had to leave. Then we went to a city called Heet. We hid with a family; I was paying them for my food and sleeping in their house. Then the American planes raided the Heet post office. I contacted my brothers who were in Baghdad from the neighbors' house and told me to come back because it is going to take long-this war- and you will not be able to enter Baghdad. Then when I came back, I went to Al Amerya area where my son lives. I stayed in his house, sleeping in the family room, and because of the severity of the bombs, the doors would open at night with unlock because of the severity of the noise. Then I was very scared, I escaped from Al Amerya. I went to another area called Al Athamya where I stayed with my brother and then I hid in his house but the attacks were very severe in that area as well, we were hiding in one of the corners but the glass was breaking every time and we were very scared. We were not able to walk in full; we were crawling on hands and legs. Then I wanted to go to my sister's house in Karrada, that house was neighboring Saddam Hussein's palace. And of course, there were many tanks near Saddam`s palace and when we approaching, the tanks would start pointing at us to kill us. Then they were raiding the palaces of Saddam. Then I was alone in the house so I escaped from inside the house to go and hide in the garden, because I was afraid that the house will be demolished on me. As soon as the bombs stopped, thieves started again, people start robbing Saddam`s palace and other houses where people have evacuated their houses. There was me and a Christian neighbor that I have next door. We were the only people left in the neighborhood. I lived like this for about a month or so, I was alone.
L.H.: How did you get your food?
N.I.: my neighbor was able to walk and go out to sec which ever of the shops that were open, she would bring us food to eat, of course electricity, they hit electricity so we were cut from electricity, accordingly all food we had in the refrigerator and freezers got rotten and we had to get rid of it. In one of the cases, I had to call my brothers house that lives in a different area, to bring me some food, because I was running out of food. They took risk by going in front of tanks to bring me food. We had no electricity and there was no water so the water source we had was basically bringing it from the river, Bush is not good.

L.H.: Sorry
N.I.: And those who came later are even worse. So again we had killing. So what they did is to increase salary, so now my salary has become 100 000 Iraqi Dinar which is equivalent to 80 dollars.

L.H.: Which salary you mean?
N.I.: Pension
N.I.: And 80 dollars are not enough at all.

L.H.: Tell me about your husband and your marriage and your children?
N.I.: My husband was a pharmacist, and I have a daughter and a son. And I have a son from my previous husband who was a physician. My children don’t know me now coz they left their houses, they left their furniture everything, and went to Emirates, they are afraid of being killed.

L.H.: Where are your children now?
N.I.: My sons are now in Emirates, in Abu-Dhabi and Dubai.

L.H.: What do they do there?
N.I.: They don’t me, they don’t send to me and even my pension, I applied here to receive my pension in Jordan, and for that I'd pay 5 JD`s every month they bring it, and now it's been over two months, and I didn’t receive my pension yet. My husband has properties like shops and small house which were rented by, but people now are occupying those premises without paying any rent. Now that I want to go to Baghdad to go and receive my pension from there, but then if I go I have to pay all the penalties for the Jordanian government which is 1.5 Dinar for everyday and its 45 JDs every month. I can't leave the country coz then I have to pay all the penalties at the border, so I can't go to Baghdad.

L.H.: Tell us about your living situation now?
N.I.: now my health is not good coz I always have high blood pressure and have problems with my joints, my knees, I have swelled ankles and can not walk. So look at my teeth, I can't go to the dentist because he charges very high here. I can't eat properly.

L.H.: What do you eat?
N.I.: I basically put the bread in a source, so I have to take food in source to eat it or sometimes, I just swallow food which is not good. Even my eyes, now if you check my blood pressure you can see how high it is.

L.H.: What was life like when you were a young woman?
N.I.: I had a beautiful life, with my husband my life beautiful, when he died it was never the same. I've been to England, 4 times, I've been to France, 3 times, to Emirates, Cairo, Turkey. I wanted to visit the states, I wanted to see my daughter but they did not give me Visa, I really wanted to see the US, I wanted to meet Oprah because I love her, I like her show.

L.H.: I'll tell you what I'm going to do; I'll send a copy from this tape to Oprah.
N.I.: Oh, I wish
L.H.: Yes, that’s nice, I love Oprah too.
N.I.: I watch Oprah everyday, and l love Dr.Phil and Rachel Ray. God is generous.

L.H.: What do you miss the most about Iraq?
N.I.: Frankly, I don’t miss anything in Iraq, I only miss my place in Baghdad that I miss, and basically if I go there and get my pension my money, that’s it.

L.H.: What do you think has to happen in order to be peace in Iraq?
N.I.: I wish that our relation with the states becomes very good so that we have peace, I want to have a good relation with the US. I want an evacuated government; we don’t want a government of thieves and corrupted.

L.H.: Do you think the situation in Iraq would improve or stay about the same or get worse if the US military left?
N.I.: If we remain in the hands of Iraqis we will not be good.

L.H.: Why is that do you think?
N.I.: The way I see it is that Americans are protecting us, so some how they chase the terrorists and protect us.

L.H.: Do you really believe this?
N.I.: Maybe the Americans are protecting us. I wouldn’t know but maybe they will protect us.

L.H.: What is your greatest joy?
N.I.: My biggest joy in life is to see my grandson well, and for my granddaughter who is a student to be graduated from the United States. The people of America are good. I love America.

L.H.: Even though they are occupying your country right now?
N.I.: I love Americans because they are loyal to their country, and straights in their dealings. What have we see from our oil resources that we have? We have seen nothing good from our resources of petrol. The government is taking advantage of all the recourses, if it wasn’t for my daughter who is supporting me where would I go? I wouldn’t be able to live in Baghdad. It is very hot and no water. Nobody is to serve or aid me, how can I live in Baghdad? I've been here for a whole year.

L.H.: Do you see yourself ever being able to return to Baghdad?
N.I.: of course. I would go to Baghdad, my country, my city, but only if there is security, no killing and if there is electricity. Then I can live there. Sometimes I wonder what should I do with myself, should ask for refugee status in Jordan but I think what If they don’t let me go out again, or let me get inside the country again.

L.H.: Why are you afraid?
N.I.: If I ask for refugee status, so they won't make me pay 1.5 JDs per day, it's difficult, 45 JDs every month.

L.H.: Are you able to get medical care in Jordan?
N.I.: No. medical treatment here is private and expensive. I went to a doctor for surgery asked for 15000 dollars. How on earth can I pay this money?! The name of this doctor is Basel El-Masry; he wants 15000 US dollars to do the surgery for my knees. I am still strong, I wash my clothes, I cook everyday, I clean, I can do everything myself.

L.H.: I had some of your food and it is delicious
N.I.: come tomorrow or any day you want and I'll cook for you delicious food. Other people that come here love my food. Why don’t you come stay here instead of a hotel? We have nobody. My son-in-law is in Iraq and my granddaughter is in Iraq. She did her training in Jordan and her other medical training in the United States, but when she went back to Baghdad medical school they didn’t approve her training in these countries , they asked her to do the training in Baghdad so that’s why she went back to Baghdad and her father is with her.

L.H.: How much longer does your granddaughter have?
N.I.: She still has 25 days to go.

L.H.: And then she will come here?
N.I.: It will take her about two months to come here.

L.H.: Can you show a picture of you and your husband?
N.I.: Here, I was pregnant with my son then, he was born in 1958.

L.H.: How was your life at that time, in the 1950`s?
N.I.: At that time I wasn’t veiled, I would be wearing strapless, we went to clubs and parties and traveling, and this was my life there.

L.H.: Lovely, but what have to happen for there to be peace in Iraq?
N.I.: We have to have fair nice international relationships with other countries; we must have good relations so that we have peace. Nobody should interfere in our internal affairs. They should help the people of Iraq. With the mercy of God we will have peace in Iraq.

L.H.: what do you think is the biggest thing that is preventing peace right now?
N.I.: Hopefully we would have a better government in the United States that can give us a hand. GOD is merciful. We are peaceful people, we used to love Jewish people that lived in Iraq, and we love our Christian community. When I was a baby, I was breast fed by a Christian woman. When I was a little girl, we lived in an area where our Jewish neighbors would ask me as a young kid to go and light a candle on Saturdays. I used to be the one who light the candles. We are peaceful, we (?) relations with Jewish people and Christians all around us at that time.
When my daughter was going through a heart surgery in the States and she was alone there, I dreamt -and I was alone here, she was alone there- there was a cross next to her, and JESUS was standing next to her. So when I had that dream, I woke up in the morning and I told my family, don’t worry she will be safe and from that day I stopped crying. So every 15th of August which is the day I cook this special dish it's called (Dolma), and I send it to the church in Bab El-Mo`atham because it is the day of Virgin Mary and it is her religious day. So this is how we are. And I am a Muslim thank God, but I don’t have any discrimination, and I don’t have any sectarian feeling toward one sect or another. Thank God.

L.H.: Is there anything, any special message you would like to give to people in the west about what it is like to be an Iraqi woman now in your situation?
N.I.: I would love in my age to be a friend to everybody; I'd love to be a friend to Israeli people, or the American people. For me I don’t have any negative feeling even if that person is Israeli, in my age, I have no discrimination in this age.

L.H.: With all of your life experience and having your country going through several wars during your lifetime, what advice would you give to the next generation?
N.I.: In my life I witnessed the war of Rasheed Aali Jeelani, and this is like ages ago, 50 years ago. I witnessed the war with the British people. And I witnessed all the battles with Palestine and all revolutions; I remember all the wars even the 14th of July but the worse war I saw were both Bushes wars; the one of the Kuwait and this one is even more powerful on us; Bush the father and the son, they hurt us a lot. But this one is the worse.

L.H.: I'm sorry. What was the specific event during the delivery of your son when you were pregnant?
N.I.: It was the revolution against the king. On that day was my due, so they put me in a car to take me to the hospital to deliver, and in the street I saw the people in demonstrations and they were carrying the hand and the leg of the king's cousin Abdel Elah, so I was so scared. I went back home and they brought midwives for me to help me at home deliver my son. The people killed King Faisal, they killed the whole family.

L.H.: What advice would you give?
N.I.: My advice to the youth is not to interfere in politics, only studying and educating themselves and not interfere in politics. For those who want to interfere in politics, they should work on the principles of keeping good relations with the neighbors and with other countries.

L.H.: What is your best memory?
N.I.: I was very happy when I had my daughter, as a girl because I didn’t have girls, so I was so happy to have her.

L.H.: What is the greatest loss you experienced?
N.I.: I lost her father, I lost my husband. After that my whole life was in disturbance, there was no stability afterwards.

L.H.: How did he die?
N.I.: He had stomach cancer. He died out of cancer, he lived only one month and then he died it was sudden

L.H.: So how many years did he have?
N.I.: He was 64 then. Its 27 years so far.

L.H.: What are some of those challenges that you faced as a widow?
N.I.: Being alone is the most difficult part. I was living alone, its hard.

L.H.: How did you support your family?
N.I.: By that time they finished their education. At the beginning of my family, I was sawing and making dresses. But after my husband died, I was basically living on the rents that I receive from the premises we have and on the pension, although it was very modest, but we lived contented with that. Life was reasonable then, it was cheap, we didn’t witness as much inflation as we do now. At times we were renting a whole house for 5 Dinars. Now nobody is paying the rent, everybody is paying in the premises, we have free of charge.

L.H.: So you have no control over your property?
N.I.: In Iraq there is no dominance of law, there is no respect for the government, the people do not respect the government and therefore there is no application of rules and regulations.

L.H.: Is there something you hope to do, something special you hope to do before you leave this life?
N.I.: I wish to go to the states; this is what I want to do before I go. Since the time of Saddam, I wanted to go to the states as a tourist, but Saddam did not allow us to travel so I've seen London, also Russia, I did not see it, but I don’t like it. A tourist trip to London costs a hundred dinars only, so that’s why I managed to see all these countries, I went 4 times to Saudi Arabia, I've been to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, in all I went with my husband in tourists.

L.H.: Thank you

Friday, October 26, 2007

Interview with B.

Interview with B (Iraqi Christian widow—husband was an Iraqi-Canadian, daughter Rita, sister of S.J. whom I've also interviewed and whose transcript is posted)
Interviewer Laura Hamblin East Amman 9/21/07

L.H.: Tell me about your experience in Iraq.
B: Every bad thing I have experienced, I have experienced in Iraq. When my husband was killed in Iraq, we –my daughter and I—suffered a lot. My husband was an Iraqi-Canadian. He was originally from Iraq, but he had Canadian citizenship. He had his own business in Iraq—his own company. Once he called me from his company, this was two years ago [2005] he called and said he would be home in half an hour. A few minutes later security called me to say that he was killed with his colleague in their car. It was a small distance between his company, and where he was killed in the car, so I went and found the police. Eight days later, after his death, while we were having the grieving ceremony, four strange people came and told us to end the ceremony or they would kill us all—explode the whole gathering. Then I called my husband’s sister (who is also Canadian), and told her about our difficult situation, because the attackers also threatened to kidnap my daughter.

L.H.: Do you know who these people were?
B: They were from a group who said they support the Sunni people of Iraq. This is all I knew about them—according to the investigations conducted by the police.

L.H.: Do you know why they would want your husband dead?
B: The colleague of my husband’s was truly a Canadian—originally from Canada, and those people [who killed them] thought that my husband and his colleague were working for Americans—that’s why they attacked them and killed them.

L.H.: What kind of business did your husband have?
B: It had to do with oil transportation—oil export and import. After this event they stole the car from me, and they [the attackers] took the building and occupied the company’s building, and they occupied it and took it for their own. So we consulted my husband’s family in Canada, and they offered for us to go to the Green Zone where there is a Canadian commercial secretary, Ben Roswell, who offered help for us and let us to stay in the Green Zone for our safety for that period. This was only eight days from my husband’s death. So we stayed in the Green Zone for six months at the Canadian Embassy. After that, for six months, there was an agreement between the Canadian government and the Austrian government, so they accepted us to live in Austria for six months only. After that we had to transfer to Canada. But after six months of living in Austria, no one could help us to get into Canada, so we had to come back to Amman. That is why we are here.

L.H.: Even though you had dual citizenship because you married a Canadian?
B: Only my daughter got Canadian citizenship and a passport. He couldn’t get that for me.

L.H.: How long have you been here?
B: Two years, after being in Austria for six months. So I applied to UNHCR for help to go to Canada, and they agreed to help because my daughter is Canadian. So they told me they cannot force me to go back to Iraq because my child is Canadian, so they said they would help us to go to Canada.

L.H.: So what is the time frame you are looking at to go to Canada?
B: The Canadian Embassy asked me for two documents—one that shows that I had not been accused of any criminal acts before—that I had good conduct. The second document would show that I dealt well with people, that I didn’t make any trouble—that I was a good citizen. But I was unable to produce these documents. Since I am in Jordan for two years without legal residency, it was difficult to get these documents. So the UNHCR contacted the Canadian Embassy again, telling them it is so difficult for me to get these documents. So they said they might facilitate my application without the documents.

L.H.: Would you have to go back to Baghdad to get the documents?
B: No, these documents would have to be issued fro the Jordanian government, because she has been here for two years.

L.H.: Why is it difficult to get those documents?
B: Because I am not a legal resident in Jordan. According to my understanding no other embassy but the Canadian Embassy asks for this type of document. I have suffered a lot from the Canadian Embassy and their rules. I have suffered from then until now. Even when I asked the Commercial Secretary of Canada why they couldn’t offer a visa with I couldn’t get a visa with my daughter, he said, “no I deal with business visas not government visas.” Even the cost of the trip from Baghdad to Amman, and from Amman to Austria, and from Austria to Amman—we had to pay for all of the costs. Nobody supported us. We paid $3,500 US dollars for the trip. They took a loan from my sister-in-law, through a Canadian bank, but she had to surrender her passport for the loan.

L.H.: So are you working now?
B: Yes, I am doing housekeeping work; I prepare everything in the house. When I was here in Jordan two years ago, I went to the Canadian Embassy asking if they could offer any salary for my daughter. They [the embassy] said no they could not offer such a thing, unless the person were inside Canada. They cannot offer anything to a Canadian person who is outside Canada.

L.H.: What does your daughter do while you are working? Do you bring your daughter with you?
B: I’d take her to my sister’s while I worked, or she used to go to school while I worked. If everything were ok, she’d be in fifth grade, but she is now in the third grade because she lost two years due to the situation [prior to 2007, the laws in Jordan did not permit the children of Iraqi refugees to go to school].

L.H.: Where do you see yourself in five years?
B: Canada. They promised me to get there. I am now waiting for a medical test and a visa.

L.H.: How long will you have to wait?
B: I called UNHCR a few days ago, and they asked me to prolong the validity days of my passport because it’s now expired. They asked me to be ready anytime.

L.H.: Do you have relatives in Canada that you’ll be with?
B: The brother and sister of my husband are living there and the sister is so helpful. She has helped us a lot. She will be very glad to receive us in Canada.

L.H.: Could you tell me about some of the difficulties of being a widow?
B: I have a lot of problems, especially in having my daughter go to school, because I am the only provider in the family. No one is helping us financially. CARATAS offered to pay for Iraqi children in Jordan, but they won’t pay for my daughter—because she is Canadian! A previous employee at CARATAS said “We cannot do anything for her because she is Canadian. If she were Iraqi we could do a lot for her.”

L.H.: Do you have hope? And if so, where does that source of hope come from?
B: I only believe in God—he is my only hope in this life. There is priest nearby in the local church who used to support us. He paid for the first payment for the school for this year.

L.H.: Tell me what Iraq was like when you were a little girl.
B: It was so good and I hope everything can be like it was when I was a little girl. I would like to go back to I if everything would settle down and be clear.

L.H.: What would have to happen in order for things to be stable in Iraq?
B: According to the situation now in Iraq, only a miracle could help. But it so difficult for the situation to settle down; I don’t think it will happen in the near future.

L.H.: Do you thing things would improve if the Americans were to leave?
B: No, no it will get worse. It is a social war now—it is a civil war between the Iraqis themselves. If the Americans leave, it will get worse. It is impossible. There will be massive destruction in Iraq if Americans were to leave—mass destruction. I used to call my sister who is still in Iraq, and my sister told me, now we don’t feel secure when the Iraqi police pass by unless they are accompanied by Americans because the I police are not so good.

L.H.: How is your sister in Iraq?
B: Throughout the previous nine months we lost contact and I don’t know anything about her. She may have left Iraq.

L.H.: Are your parents alive.
B: My mother passed away five years ago, and my father was with my sister in Iraq, the one we lost contact with.

L.H.: What makes you laugh?
B: Here in Jordan? . . . There are some nice things here in Jordan. We used to go to church. Praying was some source of pleasure. I used to have terrible depression and although I have two sisters near by, I used to stay in my house until four months ago. I used to go from my house to work, and back from my work back to my house. It was a fixed routine. I only used to talk to my sisters by phone, although they are living near by. I was one of the first of the people who were accepted by UNHCR. Many people were accepted after me, and now they are resettled outside. That adds a lot to my depression.

L.H.: Is there something else you would like the west to be aware that we haven’t asked you?
B: No. Is it likely that the American media didn’t show the American people about what is going on in Iraq?

L.H.: I think that the media has not shown much about Iraqi refugees. A lot of people in the West are not aware of what a big problem the refugees are suffering right now.
B: An American journalist who was of Iraqi roots, she used to work for Iraqi Broadcast Corporation, and she is now an American journalist. CARATAS brought her here and did an interview with me. There is another American journal called Mother Jones six months ago.

L.H.: Did you see the final published article?
B: No, they promised to bring me the article but they haven’t. They also promised not to publish a picture of my face.

L.H.: Why don’t you want your face published?
B: It is a social traditional. I don’t want to offend my husband’s family—they don’t like to show a woman in public. And I’m concerned that my husband’s mother will think I am using his death to show up in magazines.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

interview with S.j.

Interview with S.J. (Syrian-Christian Iraqi Woman Refugee) in East Amman 9/20/2007
interview by Laura Hamblin

L.H.: Tell your story.
S.J.: Our story started during the falling of Saddam’s régime. It was related to my younger sister who was married to a cousin who had Canadian citizenship; he is from Iraqi roots and he has Canadian citizenship. He quit living in Canada after marring my younger sister, when he started living and working in Iraq. And after the falling of Saddam’s régime, after the coalition forces entered Iraq, he was killed because he had foreign citizenship—he was not Iraqi. He was killed on the 14th of September 2004, while leaving his company with his friend who is Canadian. Two cars attacked them. They were unknown people. They attacked them and shot them. Both of them were killed at that time. When he was killed, he had only one small daughter—she is now nine years old. So our suffering started from that time. And the unknown people, from their gang, started following us from that time, looking for his wife and daughter. They wanted to kill them with him. So after that, he [the man killed] had a sister and a mother in Canada. My sister called her in-laws in Canada and asked them what they could do to serve them, because they were afraid. So the mother and sister-in-law in Canada contacted a journalist in Canada, who was sent to Iraq to have an interview with my sister and her small daughter. And they took my sister and niece to be safe in the Green Zone. So after my sister and her daughter were safe in the Green Zone, the gang started following me and my family asking us about where my sister was, because they wanted to kill her [my sister].

L.H.: How did they contact you?
S.J.: They usually contacted us during the morning hours. They were police people—from the Iraqi police.

L.H.: The Iraqi police were following you?
S.J.: Yes, they worked as police in the morning and as gang in the evening. So they threatened to take me and yet another sister as a substitute for my sister who was married to the Canadian. They usually came with small bombs and explosions with them and they threatened to explode the whole building containing from twelve to fifteen apartments. They threatened to explode the whole building because we were living in it. They stated to follow us wherever we went, continuously. That made my children leave from school. Two of my children stopped going to school. Two of my sons were getting their technical education, and one was in high school. They suffered and were threatened, so they left their school and sat at in the house.

L.H.: So they just stayed home.
S.J.: Yes, they just stayed home because they couldn’t continue their education. One day they attacked my house, and they attacked and hit my husband. So we had a lot of problems and troubles, even with our relatives. Many of our relatives didn’t want us in their houses because we were threatened. At the end we went to my husband’s family’s house. While we were there, my husband would go to our house to check on things and to get some things we needed. Once when he went to check on our home, they followed him and he notice that he was being followed while he was in our house, so he climbed the stairs to the roof and tried to jump to another building, and he fell and hurt his back. He underwent a disc operation, and the operation failed and now he needs another constructive disc operation.

L.H.: Is he always in pain?
S.J.: Yes, he’s always in pain. The back was affected and the pain from the nerve root radiates in the limb [down the leg]. Many times the gang tried to shoot him while he was stopped at the traffic lights in the street. Once, we were followed by a car, and the people in it tried to kill us. So we took the road to the police station, and that made the gang stop following us. From that time we started thinking of leaving Iraq, especially because my father had a bad medical situation, some sort of heart failure, so we decided to leave Iraq. My father used to live with us—he didn’t like to live with my brother. But we were unable to get him to go the hospital when he needed, because he had bad heart failure. We were unable to bring him to the hospital. And once my father noticed that we were in a real threat he asked us to leave—especially my husband and our middle son were usually followed and trying to be killed—so my father asked us to leave, and he stayed with my younger sister. At that time we didn’t have enough money to leave Iraq, and we didn’t have any time to sell anything. So we asked my sister to collect some money for us and for my other sister, just enough for us to reach Amman only. So we started to collect our belongings from our house to my husband’s family. And from there we left Iraq during the curfew hours because we didn’t want to be followed. So during the curfew hours, during one night, we left Iraq.

L.H.: What year was this?
S.J.: It was the 28th of November, 2004. We reached Amman on the 29th of November, 2004. Even after we arrived in Amman, we were so afraid of going outside and showing ourselves, because we were so afraid from all we had been through. We have some pictures of my sister’s husband, when he was killed. Talking about it is not like experiencing what we suffered. We have talked for about a half an hour—but we suffered so much during that time. It was a very, very black period for us. My sons have not been in school since they were in Iraq. And when we came here they were not allowed to go to school. Now, even thought the law has changed [and they can go to school in Amman] they find it very difficult to start again to go back after being away for so long. Only my younger son goes to school; he is now in the ninth year. I have three children and they are all here.

L.H.: Do you see yourself ever being able to go back to Iraq?
S.J.: No—it’s impossible. We can’t. Even if the political situation were to clear up and everything were to settle—the people are not so good people, and we would not be able to live with them again. We love our country. No one wants to live in their country as much as we do, but for us it is so difficult to go back again.

L.H.: What do you miss most about Iraq?
S.J.: I miss everything. Everything.

L.H: Do you have hope?
S.J.: Because nothing is working out for us. We have no hope now days. We just want to know what will go on.

L.H.: Is it likely that you’ll be able to get a visa and immigrate to the United States of Canada?
S.J.: It’s too difficult. We lost everything we had in Iraq so we are not well supported financially to apply for immigration. We only brought small containers of our clothes. We didn’t bring anything with us.

L.H.: Where do you see yourselves in five years?
S.J.: We have hope that UNHCR will help us. We are registered with UNHCR as refugees.

L.H: So there is a possibility you will get out?
S.J: Yes, we have hope they will help. We have no hope except this organization [UNHCR], because any traveling to another country has to be supported financially. We and our family are not supported financially. So our only hope is UNHCR. They may help us.

L.H.: How long have you been in Jordan?
S.J.: Two years and a half.

L.H.: What would have to take place in order for peace to exist in Iraq?
S.J.: It is a political question and I’m not that knowledgeable about political situations.

L.H.: What have you learned about yourself through your experiences?
S.J.: We faced many problems during that time. We didn’t expect that once Saddam’s regime would fall that these people would form into gangs and start attacking people.

L.H.: Do you have a better idea of who was against her? The people who were after her?
S.J.: We have no contact with these people. They were gangs who were supported by Iraqi police, and they used to attack Iraqi people. One of the attackers said to us, “We are working with a huge network—and I don’t even know where this network ends or to whom it belongs.” They started to employ poor people to serve these gangs, because they started to support poor people financially, so they employed many people to work with them because of bad financial situations. The attackers were so savage and bad people. Every person who will kill his neighbor, his brother, his people—he is so bad because he did these acts.

L.H.: What could the United States be doing differently to improve the situation?
S.J.: I don’t know anything about politics. Since America exists everywhere in the world, I expect America can do many things to help improve the situation—I am sure of it. But how? I don’t know; I don’t have any idea. If America would start getting rid of the extremists, who are not Iraqis and who entered Iraq after 2003, everything may settle down. I mean the Iranians—the people from Iran.

L.H.: So you do see the Iranians as a threat?
S.J.: They [Iranians] have different thoughts, different extremists thoughts; they were strange from Iraqis. These acts did not use to occur in Iraq. It’s impossible for an Iraqi to be so savage toward another Iraqi. So I think these thoughts and acts were supported from Iran.

L.H.: People from the West only know what the media tells us. What could you say to help clarify for Western people what is really happening in Iraq?
S.J.: The Iraqis have to transfer, interpret these acts and what is going on—like this interview. Every Iraqi who suffered throughout theses previous years, and if he were to get such an interview, he may transfer what he did suffer, a lot could be transferred [conveyed] to other countries.

L.H.: What advice would you give to other refugees?
S.J.: We wished to any Iraqi refugee what I wish for myself—for every Iraqi person to be resettled, to be happy to live his life well. Not to be like we are here; we have chronic anxiety because we are not resettled here. We are only looking for resettlement—to be just resettled, whether here in Jordan or outside, because it’s very difficult for us to go back to Iraq.

L.H.: Are you able to work here?
S.J.: No we are not allowed to work here; it is not allowed. Even if we were to get the UNHCR registration, one of the requirements for this registration is that we do not work. We are only accepted here as refugees. The UN will help us to be resettled outside. None of us is allowed to work here.

L.H.: How do you support yourselves?
S.J.: We are not working, so some of our sisters [in Iraq] collect and save money for us. And we are Christians, so the Jordanian churches are supporting us. The churches are doing very good work or us. Even if we need some things, if any Iraqi family leaves, they [the churches] support us by transferring the things from the traveling family to us.

L.H.: Do you have other family members still living in Iraq?
S.J.: All of my family members left Iraq. Once a family leaves Iraq, they will start threatening another sister or another brother. So some of them are living in Jordan, others in Syria, none of them is living in Iraq.

L.H.: What is your sister doing, the one whose husband was killed?
S.J.: She is now here in Jordan, and she had an interview with the Canadian Embassy because her small daughter has Canadian citizenship and a Canadian passport, and they may leave for Canada, as soon as possible, they may leave. I thank god because of this. My brother in Turkey applied with UNHCR and he was accepted, and he will leave for America within a few days, through the UNHCR of Turkey. We are the only of the family who has stayed. The one who is living in Turkey, he will leave for America in a few days. The other is resettled in Syria, and we are still here. I am Syrian but I have lived in Iraq for a long time. So my other brother has resettled back in Syria.

L.H.: How do you spend your day?
S.H.: Doing housework. I can’t talk about this. I take care of my husband because he has a lot of chronic pain. And my sons are around me twenty-four hours a day because they are not able to study.

[MR. J. shows pictures and talks] This is the one who was killed, and this is her [my wife’s] sister, his wife. She was born in 1977; she is about 30 years old. This is his photo when he was killed—his skull when he was shot. This is her father during the grieving ceremony. This is in the church praying for him. This is the skull. This is his wife. I think I did well in taking these photos as evidence.

L.H.: May I take pictures of these photos?
S.J.: Yes. [They show the pictures and identify them]

L.H.: What will you do if you get the America?
S.J.: We are only looking only for resettlement. We are not able to wish for anything because we know nothing of this strange world. We are only looking for resettlement. Whatever we will face, we will be satisfied because we suffered so much in Iraq. We only want to be away from Iraq—this is our only wish.

L: What do you anticipate for your sons in America?
S: I will be very, very assured about my sons there [in America] because no one will follow them. They may start their studies again—them may have a good future there in America. Even if they start from zero, they will start a normal, regular life—not like what they suffered in Iraq.

Monday, October 15, 2007

interview with N.

This is an interview with a refugee who has been in Amman for several years without successfully being resettled to a third country. She lives alone with five children, one of whom was recently married. The new couple also lives with N.

Interview with N. (Sept 10, 2007 east side, Amman Jordan)
Interview by Laura Hamblin

H: Could you tell me your names and spell them.
N: My name is Z. I’m eight years old.
My name is F. and I’m 12 years old.
My name is N. and I’m 46 years old.

H: Tell me your story
N: We came to Jordan, year 2001 because of Saddam’s regime. My husband was against the war. They sentenced him to be in prison. And they too all our money. And my husband was sent to jail. And then he ran away from town. And they kept on following him for a while. And then after he left jail, he decided that we should leave the country. We came to Amman.

H: Were they after your husband because of his political views?
N: He was a man of peace. He was against war; he never liked war. He wasn’t a political person. He was an agricultural engineer.

H: Where is he now?
N: My husband is in Iraq now.

H: Do you have contact with him?
N: Circumstances are very difficult and I’m not in contact with him very recently.

H: Is he able to come here?
N: No, he was sent to exile. He cannot come to Jordan.

H: How long has it been since you’ve seen him?
N: Since March 2005. That was when I last saw my husband.

H: Is that when you last saw your father?
N: Yes, it was the last time we saw him.

H: Do you miss him?
N: Yes we do.

H: I’m sorry for your loss. Tell me about what life was like in Iraq.
N: Our life in Iraq wasn’t easy, being Shiites in Saddam’s regime. He used to treat us in a bad way. The big Iraq was our big prison.

H: How did you get out of Iraq?
N: My husband was in prison. And he wasn’t allowed to leave the country and to travel. Then we saw one of Saddam’s people in the army, and we gave someone money, and he issued passports for us, and that was how we left.

H: What is your life like here?
N: It’s very, very difficult.

H: Tell me how?
N: When we first came to Jordan, we were like visitors to this country, and we’re supposed to respect the rules and regulations of the country. And we’re not allowed to work, and that’s something very difficult. My first shock was that in Jordan I had to make my children go to work in order for us to live. And my eldest son, I have to get him out of school so that my husband would stay at home with us, and that police would not capture my husband.

H: What work did your children do?
N: They worked in this factory—a shoemaking factory. And since my sons started working in the factory, they haven’t been able to catch up with school very well. And we suffered a lot with schooling in Jordan. It wasn’t allowed for Iraqis to send their children to school.

H: Here, in Jordan?
N: um hum [yes]

H: Now, didn’t that law just change?
N: Yes this year the law changed, and Iraqis can send their children back to school.

H: Are your children now going to school?
N: Yes, my children now go to school.

H: How do you feel about that?
N: We’re happy that we go to school.

H: How do you fill your day?
N: I wake up in the morning. Usually, well I was an active member in Care International. This is a volunteer thing; this is not something I am paid for. We gather together and we see what Iraqis need, and their issues. We discuss their cases. We try to speak with UNHCR representatives and staff about their cases. I was also an active member in mesan that was a law group for human rights. I tried my best to fill my time with going to meetings and meeting Iraqi women and trying to set our issues on the table and discuss our situation. During the rest of the day I take care of my children and take care of my house.

H: Where do you see yourself in five years?
N: Five years from now, if I stay in this country, I will die. Let’s say that this country is really safe, but there is no life. Now I am puzzled and confused where I am supposed to get income in order for me to feed my children, because I just made them stop working. Now I have hypertension because of my stressful situation, because I’m thinking all the time and I’m stressed. I don’t know where the sickness comes from. I am just getting sick and sick with every passing day.

H: Do you have hope for the future?
N: I am a believer. I am a woman who believes in God, and if I didn’t have hope in God I would have died very long ago. Even my children—I taught them how to live. And God is good, gracious. Tomorrow should be better than today. God will see your patience, and God will know that you are righteous people. Then God would give you a better future at the end. This is what I tell my children, and I live with hope. That’s the only thing that motivates me toward living for the future.

H: What would have to change in Iraq for you to be able to return?
N: Iraq as a country needs a just government, and a very strong government. That’s the only reason that would allow us to go back to Iraq and make it a safe place for us.

H: How can that happen?
N: I don’t know. This is something that the politicians have to deal with. It’s their job to find. . . . I don’t know.

H: What would have to be in place for peace to exist in the Middle East?
N: First of all they should destroy all means of terrorism and terrorists. Terrorism is supposed to end. We are all human beings. We have only one God. We don’t have two Gods. We are all humans. We should be forgiving to one another. We should be clean, innocent people. We should stand with one another in one hand. Excluding no ethnicity, no religion, no . . . That’s the world our children. . . . How are we going to raise our children? How are we going to build a future and build communities? And this starts; it all starts with people who have authority. We are helpless hopeless people.

H: What could the United States be doing differently to help make the situation better?
N: It [The United States] is a strong nation, a strong country. And no one could have beaten Saddam, but they did. They did beat Saddam and his régime. I don’t know. They have the power; they have the authority. They have . . . they have the strength. In order for them to put law in the country . . . I don’t know what they could possibly be doing.

H: Were you kidnapped?
N: No, but I was hit by Saddam’s followers, Saddam’s people. I was beaten by them.

H: Were you hurt physically because of the beating?
N: Yes, I lost an eye. I came to Jordan, and here I got this artificial, glass eye.

H: It still cries, I noticed.
N: Even my right eye I cannot see with it properly because it is weak. We were happy that Saddam’s regime ended and he was beaten. And we thought that we would be able to go back to our country. But that didn’t happen. And Saddam went, so after Saddam left, sectarian beliefs, they came up . . . then kidnappings, terrorism, violence. We only had one enemy, and that was Saddam. We saw this enemy. We knew the enemy. And it was only one person. It was obvious for us. He was in front of us. Everything was clear. Now we’re lost. We don’t know who our enemy is. It is chaos.

H: Why is there such chaos?
N: Because it’s a lawless country. There is no good government. Of those people who are governing right now—they know nothing about politics.

H: Do you miss Iraq?
N: Of course. I do. I miss it. Every day I cry for Iraq and every day I watch Iraqi news.

H: What do you miss most?
N: My family, my parents, my place—my being. Iraq is my country. In Iraq I feel my self worth, my dignity. Here, I’m a stranger.

H: Do you think that you will be able to get asylum in another country with your family?
N: This is what I’m here for. This is what I’m trying to do.

H: Which country are you trying to get to, which do you hope for?
N: Well, I did apply for resettlement in general. But I was [appointed] to resettle to the United States.

H: You mean, that’s where you’ve been assigned to resettle at some date?
N: Yes, assigned. . . . Not for my sake . . .I’m not doing that for my sake. I’m doing it for the sake of my children. I want them to live; I want them to live so they will be safe. I want them to study. When they were young one would say, “I want to become an engineer,” and the other would say, “I want to become a doctor,” and everything, but now they have no ambition. I try to talk to my kids, and maybe sometimes try to motivate them, but they even start telling me that we might stay here for another year or two, we have been here already, for long enough. For example, my daughter she finished secondary school, and she wants to go to university. But she cannot because I cannot afford it.

H: It’s my sense that a lot of people [in the West] aren’t aware of the refugee situation here. We don’t hear about it much in the news.
N: Our situation, the refugee situation in the region is very, very difficult. It is horrible. We’re in a country where you are a stranger, you have to pay rent, you have to pay for food, for electricity, for water. Your children, they have many, many needs that you have to provide. And you have nothing. I can’t tell a small child that “Today, I’m sorry that we don’t have food for today.” Or when the tenant [landlord] would knock your door to asking for rent, you cannot just tell them, “I’m sorry, I don’t have money.” It wouldn’t wait. The Jordanian government doesn’t allow Iraqi’s to work in the country, unless they have a work permit and residency. To obtain a work permit and residency would cost people a lot of money. Especially when some people could just get them by just depositing a lot of money in the bank.

H: Is there any special message that you’d like to give people in the West about your situation?
N: I’m one of hundreds and hundreds of Iraqi women here in the region just pleading the western countries whether Europe or Sates, to facilitate the resettlement of refugees in order for them to leave the region. When you raise children in such circumstances and such difficult atmosphere, then your children will not be healthy in the future, and then they would grow up and, they would have the sense of revenge. And you just deprive children of everything, and you then want them to be good, and well, and healthy, and stable, and you want them to be peaceful, and honest, and work and things, and you them want the to become good people in the future—that’s very difficult. So if our children go to your country, then for example, as we hear education is free in the west, so at least our children would get the chance to enroll in schools, and college and universities and that would be for their good. I ask that the west would look at our children, and that they would try to think of our children. Our age is almost over; our lives are almost over. But our children are what matters to us.

H: How do you afford living here, how do you afford the rent here?
N: My children, as I told you, they used to work. I saw that the future of my children would be under-stake, so my husband then was forced to go out and work himself. I made my children quit working and I sent them to schools. My husband started working in construction. When my husband was sent back to Iraq, I started working sewing clothes, and I started doing things for neighbors. When I did the operation for my eye, and the doctor told me not to stress my healthy eye, I went to UNHCR and I explained my situation to them. And they started giving me a salary—which is 120 JDs [approximately $168.00] per month for the whole family—for everything. Although it was never enough, but I used to say, “That’s good enough to pay the rent and electricity and the water.” And there is this organization, because we’re close to Ramadan, and that’s why we could get a bit of stores [from the charity]. And there is this person in the NGO; she also helps me with the food supply because I have been known to them. And New Years and other holidays, she would give me food supplies. We’re surviving, but it’s very difficult, very difficult. . . .

We hear, for example that one country donated one million, one billion for Iraqis in the region, and then we become excited, and we say, yes—we are going to have some of it. We’re happy that somehow we’re going to be ok—we’re going to have some sort of financial or food supply, or whatever form of aid or help. But then at the end it gets cut off by many people and organizations on the way, and whatever is left for Iraqis really to make use of or to get is something very minimal like 10% of whatever was donated from the countries.

I would like to clarify another point also, when any organization would decide to take the chance to help Iraqis, when an organization would open doors to help Iraqis and to better their circumstances, for the organization it’s not enough an Iraqi to go and say that I am in need, I don’t have food supply, I don’t have financial assistance, etc.—all that is not enough for the organization. The organization would decide on going to field visits, visiting the family at home, seeing their circumstances and everything that’s related to their living. And that’s very depressing, humiliating, and stressful for the whole family—especially for the kids. And it’s very humiliating for the parents as well. It’s very difficult for us, for people to come see us at home, and see how we live, and how we’re suffering and everything.

H: I hope I’m not making that worse.
N: I know that you’re not here to hurt me or to humiliate me. I know that you’re here because you have a certain message that you want to convey to others for the benefit of the Iraqi refugee population. And that’s why I’m talking very frankly on behalf of all Iraqis—with no exclusions. When you decide to help someone, you’re not supposed to make their children feel that they’re getting support [charity]. For example, a case worker, or a field worker from an organization—a charity humanitarian would come and visit you and pay you a field visit at home, and they would see that you have a small TV or a tiny satellite, and then they would tell you –you don’t need this. This is more than enough for you actually. This is luxury. And you, as an Iraqi person, as a refugee, you’re not supposed to have this, like mobiles [phones]. In Iraq we used to own our house, our land. We used to have god accommodation. And we were not people who had this bad circumstance. They call us unworthy of owning such small things that would better our lives like TVs and mobiles. There is a very good point here—that Iraqi families, for example this [my] family they have been here for seven years, and Iraqi families would not buy things or bran new things here. When ever a family through the seven or five or four years here, whenever they travel and leave the country, every family would give something to the family who came just afterwards, and so on. So that’s why they have a couple of chairs at home, a couple of [pieces of] furniture, something like that, it’s all because families keep on giving [to] each other. My children are tired and I’m tired, and that’s why I made the decision that it’s only a month from now—and it’s either I leave and get resettled to a third country, or I go back to Iraq. My children tell me, “Why do you fear? Why do you fear? It’s death Mom, and we’re going to die, so let’s die in dignity. And let’s not stay here and die in humiliation. So let’s go back to Iraq.” And if God wills, if God wills, and I have hope in God, and I trust God, I believe in him for the sake of my children, and I hope that I will not be forced to take my children back to Iraq where it’s like hell. And I just pray that I’ll be able to bring them and go and be resettle somewhere else.

I used to gather my children around me, trying to persuade them, to pray and have good contact with their god, and not do bad things. Because I only have my children, if I lose them I will have nothing. I have no country, I have no land, no husband, no money, no country for resettlement. The only thing I have is my children. So I’m trying my best not to lose them. I hope that they will continue to do the best things with their lives, and not do anything wrong . . . to be good to each other and love each other as a daughter loves, as brothers and sisters.

If this is a test from our lord, we have to do very well for this test, so we may be very successful. God wants to see if we will continue to succeed or to fall in sin. That’s why we are trying to continue doing the right things, to avoiding falling in any sense.

H: You’re very brave and strong.
N: I have to be brave and strong because if I’m not like this I may lose my children. I have the role of both a mother and a father, and we are here in a strange country, so if any of my daughters commit any sin, they will say “This Iraqi person did it. They will not say this daughter did it or this girl did it, they will say this Iraqi girl. So we as Iraqis have a well-known proverb that says, “Everyone in a strange country has to be very well behaved.” That why we are trying to reflect our original traditions, to be very good in front of strangers. This is mandatory for us. Wherever we might go, I have to teach my children to respect the country we will live in and respect it’s people. And our religion, Islam, is something, is something very good calling people to be good to each other. It will be a big responsibility upon me if we will be resettled outside, how to teach my children to carry their religion and social concept. Especially if they have contact with a different group people with different habits, different traditions. So it will be difficult, but I hope I will succeed. If everything goes well, and we will be resettled and after many years the situation may improve, so that we can go back to Iraq, so the children may not be influenced by the social, and any bad habits from the other societies, they may carry their own traditions and habits so that they and will succeed and be so happy to go back to their own country. I will be so happy if we will be resettled, but at the same time I’m so afraid for my children—they accept any of the bad habits of those certain societies outside. So, I’ll be very anxious about them. I hope they will keep their habits, the way I raised them so as to be kind to each other and the other people they come in contact with. I hope my efforts in raising my children will not be lost, that I will see my children be successful in the society they go to. . . .