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An Iraqi in Amman: Waiting for a better future Open in fullscreen

Mohammed al-Fudailat

An Iraqi in Amman: Waiting for a better future

Life in Amman is tough for many Iraqi refugees [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 April, 2015

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An Iraqi woman living in poverty in Amman talks about her life, lost hope for her home country and her wish to emigrate to Sweden or Australia.
"In the old days, we used to leave our house keys with the neighbours. We didn't know the meaning of Muslim and Christian, we only knew Iraqi and that our neighbour was closer to us than our relatives”.

This is how Samira who is in her forties remembers life in Baghdad before sectarian, religious and ethnic conflicts ravaged the country. Now residents are constantly confronted with death.

An Iraqi Sabian, from a community that numbers less that 5,000 in Iraq today, Samira believes the days when no one cared about religion or sect will never return.

Also known as Um Radmoun, she is blind, but Samira still managed to travel from Baghdad to the Jordanian capital Amman on 30 October 2004 with her elderly mother and 11-year-old son Diyal. Viewing Amman as a temporary stop she hopes to move to either Sweden or Australia where she has family. The thought of returning to Iraq is a nightmare.

Um Radmoun lives in a basement flat in a poor neighbourhood of east Amman, which is a maze of alleyways. When she arrived in Jordan she asked some Iraqi friends to find her the cheapest flat they could, and they found her this one. The damp two-bedroom apartment costs $105 a month, however she has been unable to pay the rent for the past three months.
     We didn't know the meaning of Muslim and Christian, we only knew Iraqi.

- Um Radmoun

"We don't have any money, we don't have anything," she said. The three of them rely on donations. They also have a sympathetic landlord who gave them a fridge and a bed and who has not asked for the outstanding rent. This is all the furniture they have, besides some kitchen utensils and a gas cooker.

The family are ready to leave as soon as the UN High Commission for Refugees tells them they have been granted asylum. Summing up their eagerness to emigrate Samira says: "The only thing forcing you to experience bitterness is that which is even more bitter." 

Iraq reminds Um Radmoun of killings, kidnappings and explosions. Her husband was kidnapped a year-and-a-half ago and they do not know where he is or if he is alive or dead. Fearing an explosion would kill her children Um Radmoun removed Diyal from school, and agreed for her eldest son Radmoun to immigrate to Sweden.

Her family has been split up. Um Radmoun has four brothers and three sisters. Her father and oldest brother are dead, and she is alone with her mother and son with no one to support them. Her younger sister is married and living in Sweden, as is her son Radmoun. Her older sister and family are in Baghdad and trying to move to Turkey. She aslo has three brothers in Australia, two who were granted asylum and a third who married an Australian girl he met online.

Neither Um Radmoun nor her mother can remember a time when Sabians were as threatened as they are today. No one had threatened them before for being Sabians. That all changed after the 2003 US-led occupation.

"Life became difficult from the first day of the occupation because there was no authority to protect us. People turned sectarian and every group had its own militia, but we had no one to protect us."

Arguing that Sabians survived for so long in Iraq because they did not get involved in the country's affairs, she says they are now under threat. This is because "extremists give us a choice between Islam or death, and they killed many who refused to convert".

Looking to the future, she is convinced that when she emigrates no one will ask her to leave her religion. She also hopes to have a comfortable house and enough money to support her family.

Before leaving Um Radmoun's mother asked me to pray that they would emigrate to Sweden, after which she happily repeated: "May God hear your prayer, oh God, oh God, oh God."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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