Thursday, June 24, 2010

Living on the Edge of a Ravine

We visited 51 year old Majeda in her one room flat in a sparsely populated neighborhood on the edge of a ravine overlooking the highway. Her only furniture is a hard single bed, a wooden chair and table, and her suitcase which she uses as a chest of drawers and contains all that she owns.  Her kitchen consists of a small, one burner propane stove. She has no refrigerator or cupboards.

She, her husband, two sons and two daughters fled from the area they lived in when they received a threat message, that began "To the dirty faithless" (Majeda and her family are of Sabean-Mendai faith - pacifists who follow the teachings of John the Baptist) and went on to tell them to leave or that this group would take "God's vengence" out on them (they would be killed).  They fled to another part of Iraq and thought they were safe until gunmen stormed into their home and shot and killed two of her daughters in front of her and her husband.  Her husband suffered a stroke while this was happening.  The couple also had two sons - one married with a wife and two little children.  They "disappeared" and all are assumed dead. She said that they were a very close loving family and that they would have been in touch if they were still alive.  A year after their daughters were brutally murdered in front of them, Majeda's husband died from complications from his stroke and, as she speculates, of a broken heart.

She has one remaining child - a married daughter with three children who had been resettled to Sweden. She hopes that she may be able to join her daughter some day but, for now anyway, there is no hope for this as her case is still in the "Protection" unit.  Even if her case gets moved to the "resettlement" unit, there is no guarantee she will be able to join her daughter - Sweden is not accepting any more Iraqis at this time and we do not know when or if they will in the future,  Also, many Iraqis are resettled in nations that are far away from those where other family members are already resettled.  She is naturally very worried about this and it adds to her distress.

She came to Jordan with only a few hundred dollars in savings.  When we met her, she had only 54JD remaining and her rent of 50JD was due in a few days.  She has no financial help from friends or family. She does not yet receive UNHCR cash assistance and, since she arrived in March, it may be a few months more until she does receive it.   CRP gave her 20JD in emergency assistance money so that she could buy food. We will write to UNHCR to ask that they consider 
expediting approval for her to receive the cash assistance grant (which may or may not be successful)  Even if Majeda gets the cash assistance, it will only be 75JD per month (the same as all single persons receive) and, after paying her rent, will not leave her sufficient funds to pay for food, medications or transportation.

Majeda is at extreme risk.  The trauma she's suffered - and is still suffering - makes her particularly vulnerable. It is hard enough to try to manage survival for those who have family around them to support them but, for Majeda, these challenges can easily push her over the edge and increase her suicidal tendency.

CRP would like to be able to provide Majeda with 20JD ($30) every month for at least 6 months to provide some security for her and to ease her worries.  We would like to purchase a small refrigerator for her because food spoils rapidly in the intense heat of summer here and, because of her health, she cannot walk the distance to the souk to purchase food frequently. We want to stay in frequent contact with her so that we can be there for her to listen to her and support her emotionally.

The cost of providing Majeda with all of these things would be approximately $350

UPDATE: We were able to purchase a small, used refrigerator for Majida, which eases her hard life to some degree. But she still lacks so much in other areas of life -- rent, food, medications and transportation -- that she remains one of the most vulnerable refugees.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mohammed, a single man, has been in Jordan approximately 2 years. When we visited his home we saw that he has practically nothing. He is not receiving cash assistance and struggles to pay the rent for his depressingly bleak studio apartment by doing odd jobs as he can find them.   
Recently, when Mohammed refused to pay extortion money to a local thug, he was wrongly accused of sexual assault on the extortionist’s younger sister. When the court demanded a physical examination of the young girl, the family refused and claimed that the assault was actually against a young son in the family. The accusations were made in retaliation for Mohammed not paying a demand for money and because he stood up to their bullying.  The UNHCR human rights and legal organization partner sent a lawyer who met with him only one time, having him sign papers agreeing to their representation -- and then they never returned, forcing him to hire a private attorney. He was acquitted and all charges dropped finally - but not until he had been in jail many months and incurred a lawyer's bill of 4,000 JD - which, of course, he is unable to pay.  A wealthy "sponsor" paid the bill but now he owes this sponsor the 4 grand and the sponsor is holding his passport as "collateral" until he pays. 
He does not yet receive cash assistance. CRP will intervene with UNHCR on his behalf in hope of facilitating UNHCR assessing him for eligibility for cash assistance.  CRP also hires  Mohammed for handy-man work as needed. Mohammed refuses to take money he does not earn.
CRP provided Mohammed with items from our distribution center and, with donations generously provided through Iraq Solidarity in the UK, we bought a fan for his stiffling apartment and we are looking for a small, used refrigerator for him.