We met Sana’a and her 3 young sons at her mother’s home. Sana’a and the boys recently moved “back home” with her mother, brother, and two sisters because her husband has become involved with another woman. That was the last straw. Sana’a is raw and weeps as she tells us how her husband’s family – Palestinians – treated her very badly, constantly telling her husband to divorce her. They were prejudiced against her because, as an Iraqi, the consider her a “foreigner”. Now she wants the divorce but he will not agree, telling her that he will take the boys from her if she pursues a divorce.
Sana’a has two years in university in Baghdad toward a degree in economics but she had to leave her studies behind when she fled Iraq. Her two adult sisters and brother are also well educated but sit at home, frustrated because they cannot work. Her brother has a degree In engineering and the only work he has been able to do is to wash dishes at an under the table job in a restaurant. He has not been paid and it appears this is another case of employer exploitation. He cannot go to the authorities to report this abuse because he will be punished for working illegally.
Sana’a just wants to work and take care of her family. As an just want legal status so I can work. I don’t care what country, I just want to work; I want legal status”Iraqi, she cannot legally work here. She tells us passionately, “I just want legal status so I can work. I don’t care what country, I just want to work; I want legal status”
She desperately wants to be resettled but it is unlikely that she would be able to take her sons if she was granted resettlement to another country. Her husband will not agree to a divorce and he certainly will not agree to allow her to take their children out of the country. She loves her boys tremendously and cannot fathom leaving them behind.
Sana’a breaks down often during our visit. Her sisters play with the boys, distracting them from their mother’s pain and giving her a break from their demands. The family members are obviously mutually supportive of one another. Her mother sits near her, telling us that, before they were married, she told Sana’a’s husband that she did not want gold or other riches - all she wanted was to know her daughter would be loved. Her pain at seeing her daughter suffer is evident.
The stress of living as refugees with an uncertain future, having suffered trauma in Iraq and now, trying to make it day to day with insufficient resources takes its toll on families. What was once perhaps tolerable becomes unbearable. Relationships become strained and with day after day of this, it is easy to lose hope or have the energy to create solutions.
The family only receives 140JD per month from NHCR and their rent is 100JD. Things are tight. Now there are four more mouths to feed so the food assistance we leave will help.