Wednesday, March 25, 2009

no recourse but to run - March 25 09

As we rode in the taxi to make food assistance deliveries today, Maha told me that one of the families we know has a grave problem.

The only daughter, a young woman, recently took a job in a clothing shop. She only worked a few days when the owner's brother (and buyer for the shop) asked the girl to make coffee for him. When she went into the back room to put the coffee on, he followed her inside and then shoved her against the wall, pulling her blouse open so hard that the buttons popped off. As she cried and tried to cover herself, he pulled out his cell phone and video-taped her.

Of course, she left the job immediately.

When her parents complained, the owner did not care that her brother had abused and traumatized this young woman. The shop had paid her wages for the month of 150JD in advance. Instead, the owner insisted that she return the wages. The family had already spent the money to pay bills.

Now this man has threatened to release the video on the internet and to his friends if the family does not pay him 100JD. He says that this incident has caused problems for him with his wife and he wants the money to compensate him for this!

Maha offers to give the family the money to return the wages from the Iraqi donor funds. She tells the mother that it is not wise to pay the money the man is demanding because it is unlikely that this would keep him from demanding more although he "swears on his honor on the Quran" that he will destroy the video once he is paid. I know Maha is right.

This situation highlights the vulnerability of Iraqis in Jordan. As illegal "temporary guests" of Jordan, if victim of crime or abuse, they cannot go to the authorities. The perpetrators are never apprehended and involving authorities usually means that the Iraqi will be hassled, threatened, imprisoned or made to return to Iraq. In this particular case, since the girl was working illegally, she would probably be arrested for her employment while her abuser remains free.

Maha suggests that the family contact UNHCR about expediting their case for resettlement to get away from this situation and risk of further abuse and blackmail. I will include this family on the list I will take to UNHCR to see if they are taking it seriously and are moving to get this family out of Jordan quickly.