Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Last Thursday, we went to a poor neighborhood in west Amman to our appointment with Hamid and Nadia, to hear their story and see what we could do to help them. When we arrived, they told us that there was another couple in desperate need who hoped that they could talk to us, too. This often happens.

Help is so precious here, and so rare, that when one family is offered assistance, others emerge, seeking hope and help. These two stories below have a common denominator: people triumphing after enduring incredible trauma and devastating loss.


Hamid and Nadia are a young couple, aged 30 and 23, respectively. They arrived in Jordan in the spring of 2009, making the journey to relative safety from the violence in Iraq. They clearly love one another, though they are struggling to survive. They, like countless others, are grasping for life.

They have heard about the CRP from their family. We have come tonight to document their story. The HEART To HEART program and "G.", one generous and compassionate donor, allow us to be able to leave them with something tangible, for now -- enough money to buy some food. We will follow-up by advocating on their behalf with other agencies to expedite further assistance.

Hamid and his relatives, also refugees, tell his disturbing story. Hamid's family was targeted for terror. He and many of his relatives were threatened, forcing them to seek safety elsewhere. After relocating, Hamid and his brother (35) and his father (74) were kidnapped, beaten, and severely tortured.

Some, like his father, were left with mangled, broken hips. He tells us that he spent 3 months at Abu Graib but, as in so many cases, no charges against him were ever filed. He has fears that he is being followed. We have changed their names to protect this fragile young couple and all of their family members. We will post no pictures.

Hamid's voice is throaty, as he screams out his pain and terrors into the long nights. When awakened, he wakes up afraid, shaking and screaming."

When asked what they need, family members all say, "Everyone {who loves him} talks to him. We talk to him all the time. We need for him not to wake up at midnight. We need for him to stop screaming." The family is gentle but obviously deeply concerned for Hamid, who looks terribly embarrassed at his inability to 'make it all go away.' He needs rock-solid counsel. He needs medication. These things are not yet in place.

Like all the families we have visited, this family cajoles their most traumatized members with genuine love and a teasing humor. They all laugh a lot, in between serious re-tellings of nightmares being lived out every day and every night. "He must drink milk and sleep like a baby," they say, and everyone laughs together, touching. "If we do not laugh, we will die."

Hamid's young wife was just a teenager when she was beaten. One result of her violent beating is that she is blinded, having no vision whatsoever in her left eye. She went to an eye doctor in Syria. They could not help her there.

The pressures upon this young couple are mountainous. Nadia's mother is still in Iraq. She constantly encourages her daughter leave Hamid because their life together is too hard.

All family members, including Hamid, talk about his repeated violent outbursts, as his fear and his memories of his uncles, cousins and brothers being killed still haunt him. But as we talk, his little niece comes and sits by her uncle and snuggles into his lap, eventually falling asleep while he gently strokes her hair and brow.

Again, asked about 'what they need,' they become thoughtful. Their needs are quite simple, in their own estimation. "We must find WORK. ... Some furniture?... some food?"

The members of their family who help them now will be resettled to another country at the end of July, after which they they will not be able to afford the rent to keep his brother's apartment. "We would go to a smaller apartment," they say hesitantly, "as we are only two."

The approximate cost of such a place, including water and electricity is approximately 140 JD per month, a little under 200 USD. Two hundred dollars would get them into a new apartment.

The triumph of this young couple is that they still live! They love each other deeply and are surmounting incredible odds. They amazingly retain the capacity to love one another and the members of their family. They give enough love to have little children loving them back. They care for the people in their neighborhood, expressing much compassion for others and for each other, too.


Will you?


When I first met them, I thought that Mohammed was about 70 years old. Both he and his wife Muna appear far older than their actual ages. Mohammed is only 50 years old. Muna is 48. Their hard life has aged them both far beyond their years. Their initial request is for help with their self-perceived main problem: infertility. Haltingly and painfully, their history emerges.

For 15 long years now, this couple has lived in Jordan. They, as all other Iraqi refugees, are not legally allowed to work here. In Iraq, Mohammed worked in the Ministry of Oil. When he did not enter the Baathist party, he was threatened and told simply, to "get out." When he did not comply, he was tortured. He retains no conscious memory of this time. He did not talk about it at all.

They left their home in Baghdad, traveling first to Fallujah, where they got their passports. They came to Jordan to, "try to make children; to get a cure for infertility." Mohammed tells us that he, "has had many medicines to help this. All made {me} worse."

By 2006, Mohammed had "many problems," he said, with people here. Problems exist for all refugees. They vie for the same jobs as the poor who are residents in Jordan. Jordan, a 'water-poor' country, is staggered by the influx of upwards to nearly a million Iraqis, and millions of other refugees, too.

Jordan's resources are stretched to the limit as they strive to accommodate so many refugees as well as their own citizens. They have a plethora of social services, and the Jordanian government and most people, too, are both kind and generous to all the poor, no matter what their country of origin.

There are some, however, as in every nation, who feel frustrated at the river of foreigners who have streamed into their home country. Simply providing water for all is a huge challenge. Most of the Iraqi refugees in Jordan, as I have repeatedly said, have no legal standing, no rights to work or to freedom, no recourse when treated unfairly. If they complain, they go to jail. If they complain too much, they get deported back to violent, unsafe, chaotic, and untenable Iraq.

We must all awaken to this fact. It simply is not safe for Mohammed to return to Iraq. It will never be safe for him to return there. If he does go back, he faces the same threat that caused him to flee. "No one will listen to me. Everywhere, I try to say... the Truth. I am told: we are not a police station! Shut up. Don't talk." He goes on. He is bleak, profoundly depressed and hopeless. "I hate everything. I hate my life. No one will talk to me. No will will help me. No one will listen to me. WHAT is in my hands? It is all lost."

There is much documentation of Mohammed's case. His psychiatric report reads "Severe clinical depression. Traumatic grief. PTSD. Sleep disorder. Intrusive images. Nightmares. Infertility. Suicidal."

He shows us X-rays of his damaged ribs and one of his femur, which is badly bent at an angle far from 'normal.' How did this happen? A long pause. "I do not know. I cannot remember." He shows us a pile of devastating death certificates. Four brothers, and one of his sisters, all dead from torture. As the news of each successive death reaches Mohammed, he sinks into deeper and deeper despair. The pressure of all of this fear and abject poverty has splashed out all over the canvas of Mohammed and Muna's life. Muna weeps a lot, constantly mourning their unborn children, who, barring miracles which have not yet happened, will never come into her waiting arms.

They subsist on 110 JD per month, provided to them by the UN. Their rent is 100 JD. The rest of their needs are met by charity alone. There is never enough.

The only real hope for them is to be resettled into another country. "Any country," they say. Any country. We explain that CRP has no real power to help with resettlement, but will attempt to find resources to help with the cost of Mohammed's medications and for now, leave them 20 JD. Their miracle is that they have survived. They have never abandoned one another. Their eyes still seek to meet another's. Their eyes still pour out light. We tell Mohammed and Muna that we will come back to see them as soon as we have some better answers for them. As we prepare to leave, the Call To Prayer rings through the quiet streets. It is very late. Muna begs us not to forget her. "Promise me that you will not forget me. Promise me!" She asks, one more time, "what is the solution? What is the solution for us?"

As we walk up the hill from their house, Mohammed grins widely and gives us the peace sign.

Posted by Annie Tannner - CRP volunteer in Amman