Friday, February 20, 2009

"Before the war,..I never needed anyone's help - now I am begging for it" Feb 18 09

We intended to visit Nouryia in her home to take food assistance to her but instead we met with her in the home of her friend, Fatem. Fatem has taken Nouryia in to care for her for a while because she cannot care for herself. Nouryia has diabetes and suffers from severe back pain. She lays on a mat in the living room, unable to get up to visit with us. Whenever she shifts position on the mat, her face screws up in a grimace of pain.

Her medications cost 90JD per month. An aid organization had been paying for them but, because they have a 1000JD cap for each family and Nouryia has met it, they no longer pay. As a woman alone, she receives only 60JD per month cash assistance. Her rent is 50JD including utilities. How can she pay for medication when she cannot even afford to buy food?

Nouryia had been given a sewing machine Micro-Project last year and, when she is not in as much pain, she makes a little money from sewing for neighbors - sometimes as much as 30-40JD per month. When she can't work, she must rely on the kindness of others. It is impossible for her to go out to seek assistance when she is confined by pain though. She tells us that no one has helped her but Maha - that the Red Crescent will not help her because she is a single woman alone.

Nouryia left Baghdad in 2005 when she and her husband were threatened. They were told to leave their home or be killed. She is now divorced. Her relatives are all still in Iraq and do not have the means to help her financially.

She tells us, "Before the war we were happy and secure. I never needed anyone's help. Now I have some degree of security but I am begging for help. I am sick; my health is gone"

Fatem brings us cups of thick Arab coffee. She instructs us to turn our cups over onto the saucers when we finish our coffee and she will read the patterns made by the grounds. Her uncle taught her this skill when she was 14.

Fatem is married and has 8 children. But she has not seen them for years. She recalls years of domestic battering from her husband and tells us that large areas of her scalp have no hair from when he yanked it roughly while abusing her. She wanted a divorce but he refused. She finally could no longer take his beatings and fled from Iraq in 2001. Her husband would not allow her to bring her children. She told me, "I took two blankets with me and the pillow you are sitting against" She also brought her gold jewelry and sold it in order to open a small sewing shop in Amman.

Her shop provided her enough of an income to get by on. "I bought these carpets, this furniture"
But five years ago her shop was destroyed by an arsen fire. A note was attached to the door stated: "You Shi'ite! You infidel!"

"I watched my shop burning and was reminded of how he (her husband) beat me every day.
Now it is society that is beating me up"

Now she keeps in touch with her adult children by telephone and by sharing photos. Her husband has suffered a stroke. She tells us, "I told the children to take care of him - he is their father."

Fatem then reads our coffee cups and the predictions are all rosy: Maha will travel and she is strong, loved and respected; Lana's true love is only waiting for her to acknowledge him; and I will receive much money very soon. Her readings about each of us and our personal situations are uncannilly true so we entertain some faith that the predictions for our futures are, too. But for Nouryia and Fathem. the reality is that the future - just as it is now - will probably remain dark.