Iraqis Displaced within Iraq and Seeking Refuge Abroad
By Cathy Breen
The question foremost in my own mind is: What about the
responsibility of the United States who unleashed this war on Iraq, a
war based on self-interest and lies? A war without end that has
unleashed unspeakable terror in the whole region!
by Cathy Breen
June 26, 2015
…The grandmother takes her grandson each day to school and sits against a wall under its shadow until Ali finishes his exam. She is “old and weak,” Ali’s father writes, “and honestly it is meaningless to think she could protect Ali as she can’t really protect herself. But I do appreciate her efforts.” Ali told his dad that his grandmother was causing him “too much embarrassment as she doesn’t understand the rules of the exams.” She always tries to enter the exam class to give Ali cold water because it is very hot. The first day the director of the exam allowed her to do this, but another day during the exam she tried again. This time it was not to give him water. She had cooked a rooster and told the staff that he had to eat well to do good on the exam! Ali was a little bit angry but his love for her “let him forget the embarrassing feeling!” He is “crazy in love” with his grandmother as she is the only grandparent left…
May 6, 2015
As I write I am looking out a bus window at a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and mountains. Everything is green, and the trees are budding. It is hard to know where to begin. In the past week, I have traveled hundreds of miles by bus and train in order to visit Iraqi refugees living here. Eskisehir, Ankara, Bolu, Mersin and now Cankiri. Some of the families are refugees twice over, having fled to Syria where we first met them some years ago. Others fled more recently after ISIS took Mosel last June and then the surrounding villages. Some of them I was meeting for the first time. Muslims, Christians and Palestinians, all from Iraq.
Iraqi family living in Turkey
“All this looks to me like a dirty political game. Bombing these jihadists will not make them disappear, that’s for sure. Many innocent individuals risk being killed. Infrastructures are destroyed and will remain destroyed. The Americans have already done this: they destroyed the country and did not rebuild it. The most serious part of it all is that now everyone is saying the war is going to go on for years. This sends out two different and very dangerous messages simultaneously. The message to jihadists is: don’t worry, you have plenty of time to get organised, get more money together and enlist more paid militants. The message to the refugees is: this situation’s going to go on for years, the only future you have is away from here, away from your homes. It’s best if you leave if you can. If we are to really get rid of extremist groups once and for all, we have to work on education and training and come up with plans that show how false and monstrous this bloodthirsty ideology really is.”
Sunset in Amman
The flow of Syrians into Jordan, anywhere from 500,000 to 600,000, has created a crisis. About 100,000 of these are in a camp setting, the rest in other areas. Those in the camp, I was advised from an Iraqi who works there, are mostly farmers, construction workers and people from the countryside, while the merchants and tradespeople are trying to make their living outside of the camp. “Industrious” is how everyone describes Syrians.
November 7, 2012
Baghdad — It was late morning on a Friday, and we were caught in heavy Baghdad traffic going across town to visit a family. In the car I had time to get to know the young woman, who was to be my translator for the first time. I will call her Sarah. With little to no small talk needed, we dove into subjects which are close to both of our hearts.
Sarah is 23 years old and has already graduated from university. When the US invaded Iraq, she was just about 13, such an impressionable age. I asked her, “How has the war affected your country?”
November 4, 2011
What a handsome young man. He came three months ago from Baghdad. He said he had to. He left his wife, his mother and six little children behind. When I asked about his children, he became silent and I realized after some moments that he was crying. I too was silent, hesitating to continue. So young, I thought. All he has ever known is war.
April 29, 2010
My time in the Middle East is coming to an end and I would like to write you one last time. I was very sorry to leave Syria yesterday, but my return flight to the U.S. is out of Jordan. I had hoped to travel by land from Damascus to Amman, but the road was closed due to confrontations in southern Syria near the border. So I found myself in the early morning hours yesterday at the Damascus airport waiting to board a plane heading for Amman. How I wished I was arriving instead of leaving.
April 10, 2011
Two nights ago while visiting an Iraqi friend in his apartment, I asked if we could turn on the TV news. I wanted to take advantage of the gracious woman who was translating for us to get a sense of what is going on here in Syria. I will call her Fatima. We had not met before, and at my urging she had just shared some of her own story with me. Now as photos of chaotic scenes flashed before us (of smoke, of people running, of the dead and wounded), Fatima exclaimed, trying to laugh as she spoke, “We ran away from Palestine to Jordan. We ran away from Iraq to Syria. War seems to follow us!” The two friends told me nervously that there had been some disturbances at the other end of the neighborhood earlier in the day. They, of course, had stayed close to their homes.
April 9, 2011
I want to laugh today. As the mystic Indian poet Kabir sang, “A whole body laugh, feeling God’s poke in the ribs.”
There is no lack of things that make me sad just thinking of them. An Iraqi man separated from his family for almost two years. The wife and four children left for the U.S. in June of 2009, but the father was denied on “credibility.” For what reason? I challenge anyone to try and get the Dept. of Homeland Security to release this information to the family. His little son in Michigan, now 4 ½ years, has long since forgotten his dad’s voice over the telephone. The family in the U.S. is trying another route to reunite the family, but the wait seems eternal. I hope to see the father tonight.