Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Now I'm alone, trying to provide for my family and having to beg for help" - Feb 16

Today we set out to visit three families we will deliver food assistance to. The first is Abdulwadod and his wife, Asma. They have three children - twins girls, age 7 and a 5 year old son. The children were all still at school when we visited but their parents proudly showed us their photos.

They little in a humble but clean little flat. We entered and were invited to sit one of the two twin beds in the tiny living room space that becomes the bedroom at night.

They receive 170JD per month UNHCR cash grant. Their rent is 120JD per month. Despite the great hardship it causes, they scrimp to send the children to a private school. Abdulwadod tells us "This is a bad neighborhood. The worse the neighborhood, the worse the schools are. I just can't let my kids go there" (to the local public school)

Many parents tell us their children are bullied so harshly in some public schools - mostly in the poorest areas - that the children refuse to continue to go. Classrooms are overcrowded and teachers struggle to teach classes where many of the children suffer from PTSD and some have missed several years of school. Iraqi children cannot attend Jordanian schools once they reach age 16.

Like so many of the parents we meet, Asma and Abdulwadod take their kids' education very seriously. Living in such insecurity, they are especially aware that they must do all that they can to try to prepare their children, the best they can, for the future - even though they do not know what the future will bring. Parents sacrifice and the children take their educations very seriously. The couple tell us that all three of the children are good students.

In summer, Abdulwadod does under the table painting work sometimes. But it's seasonal work and there is none in winter. They get by but it is a struggle.

Abdulwadod was a painter in Baghdad. He and his four brothers all worked together. But now, three are detained in American custody in Camp Bucca. One had been found by US forces in an Iraqi jail and had been brutalized before found. Some others found in the jail had holes drilled in their legs. He has been in Camp Bucca for three years.

Two other brothers were also picked up and incarcerated at Bucca - one has been detained for 2 1/2 years, the other almost 2 years. Two of the brothers have 5 small children between them. When I asked how they are being supported now that their fathers are imprisoned, Abdulwadod tell us that they are now forced to live on donations.

None of the three have any charges against them. Abdulwadod tells us that the camp officials told them that they believe them innocent but, because of the large prison population and bureaurocracy, they cannot release them yet.

Abdulwadod and his family fled Iraq in 2005 after three assasination attempts against him. Another of his brothers was murdered. Abdulwadod is a religious man and he said that, in the past, before the US invasion, "if you were a little religious and had a long beard, you might be taken into custody, questioned and then you'd be released. But now, there is killing. We never had killing before."

I asked what is the hardest part of their lives now. His response was sadly typical: "Everything. I have never been faced with so much difficulty. The hardest thing is asking for help. In Iraq, we were five brothers working together. Now I am alone and I am trying to provide for my family and having to beg for help."

We left a large box of staple foods and crayons and coloring books for their children.