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Writings by Cathy Breen

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Picking up the Pieces

Mar 7, 2007
Amman, Jordan

After a brief visit to the Iraq embassy this morning, I made my way by foot to the old city district. Two Iraqi friends walking behind me were deep in conversation. I was looking downward as the sidewalk was uneven when I spied two discarded jigsaw puzzle pieces. For some reason I was tempted to pick one up. The image seemed appropriate, so many puzzle pieces we struggle to connect.

The new “G” passport that is now being required from all Iraqis is a piece of the puzzle. A piece that is adding to their misery and despair. At least 90 Shiite pilgrims en route to the holy shrine in Kerbala were killed today when two people walking in their midst blew themselves up. Other bombs brought the death toll to over 120. The day before a car bomb killed 30 in the historical book market section of Baghdad, an area I visited on more than one occasion lingering over books that spoke of Iraq’s intellectual wealth. Now “pieces of flesh and remains of books were scattered everywhere” said one witness at the scene.

Health Care of Extremity

Feb 26, 2007
Amman, Jordan

Sometimes people in the states have asked me how people in Iraq, especially in Baghdad, cope on a daily basis with the ongoing carnage and relentless violence. Believe me when I tell you, I have the same question. It is one that continuously plagues me. As a nurse, as someone who lived in Baghdad, I have some familiarity with the hospital scene there. Not only in the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion, but also during the bombing of Baghdad and later under the occupation, I was able to visit hospitals in Iraq on an ongoing basis. Because the situation has so drastically deteriorated over the last years, it has become increasingly difficult to get information and a sense of the situation within Iraq.

Keeping the Candle Burning

Keepthecandleburning2

February 21, 2007
Amman, Jordan

About two weeks ago, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from Geneva, Antonio Gutierrez, came to Amman to appeal to the International community on behalf of Iraqis. The estimated two million displaced within Iraq and another two million outside their country represent a humanitarian crisis on a level not seen since the Palestinian exodus in 1948. Since his visit there is a growing sense of movement among Iraqis stuck here in Jordan. But where people are going, or hoping to go, is another question entirely.

One thing is certain however, there are a lot of rumors and second guessing on everyone’s part. I have joined the ranks of countless others who spend their days trying to get clarifying information from embassies and the UNHCR in Jordan. Everyone is looking for help.

Update From Cathy Breen in Jordan

February 8th, 2007

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I felt so much outrage, rage at what is now being referred to here as “the ‘G’ nightmare.” Iraqis are being told they must return to Baghdad to get the new “G” passport. It is now required by the U.S. and British embassies. One older couple who has loved ones in the states has been waiting in Amman for almost a year now. Recently they received the good news that their visa has finally been approved! In the same breath, they were advised that the passports they hold are no longer valid. The Iraq embassy in Amman is not issuing the new passports; they can only be gotten in Baghdad. I find this impossible to grasp.

Letter from Cathy Breen - Jan 25th, 2007

January 28, 2007

Dear Friends,

Today is my third full day in Amman, Jordan. I feel I must begin to write, if only for myself, so that the events and impressions do not begin to run into one another. These first days have been filled with the joy of being back in familiar neighborhoods and of being reunited with friends here. Once again however my joy is curtailed as I learn of new trials that Iraqi “refugees” are having to endure. I want to relate something I heard today while visiting with a refugee family I went to greet.

You might remember my writing about this family. The 70 year old father and husband was taken from their family home in Baghdad in the trunk of a car by about a dozen men, 10 of whom were in police uniforms. After being hung up, beaten and receiving electrical shocks, he was released when a reduced ransom was paid. When a second attempt was made to kidnap him, the family fled to Jordan.

Letter from Cathy Breen - May 29th, 2006

Kamaran Mahmud, is a gifted young artist who has chosen to work there as a crafter of prostheses.Kamaran Mahmud, is a gifted young artist who has chosen to work there as a crafter of prostheses.

May 29, 2006

Dear friends,

When I stepped off the airplane in Sulymania in northern Iraq, my eyes inadvertently filled with tears. Back in Iraq after so long I thought, and yet it is not the Iraq that I know. The Iraq that I know is exploding with violence and death, with fear and uncertainty. Here we were for the first time in Kurdistan. What might this trip hold for us? I wondered.

For weeks on end in Amman one door after another had been closed to us with regard to travel to central or southern Iraq. Many other doors opened unexpectedly however, and we feel our time has not been wasted. Quite by surprise, as our time draws near to leave the Middle East, we were able to make contact with Emergency’s people in the north. And we received a welcomed invitation to visit their facility in the beautiful setting of Sulymania.

Letter from Amman, Jordan

By Cathy Breen
April 30, 2006

What began as a lovely day in the home of new friends has now turned bitter.

Kathy and I were invited to the home of a young man (who has become an invaluable help to us as a translator in the Iraqi neighborhood we frequent) to meet his family and share a meal. I will call him Ali. His family had to leave their home in Hebron and flee to Kuwait where Ali was born. During the First Gulf war the family of three sisters and four brothers moved to Jordan. Their father died in l999. Through his mother’s stories over the years, Ali and his family sense deep roots in Hebron, though as a Palestinian, he has never been able to visit there.