Iraq, the crossroads
When Nina was launched, readers were promised that they would find the voices of Iraqi women everywhere in our pages. Whether they were from inside or outside Iraq, Nina would ensure that these voices would be heard. By creating a platform where our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are able to express their opinions transparently, honestly and without fear, Nina aims to change the dialogue one story at a time – from victim to survivor for example. Each painful experience and problem is reminder of rights which have been removed, with the individual, personal journeys shared in Nina looking backwards and forwards in time with honesty, strength and ultimately hope. We have created the My Story section to allow Nina to be the means of communication and indeed the bridge for Iraqi women to reach safe shores. As the ‘Spirit of Enterprise and the Heart of Iraq’ Nina allows us all to work together. Our first and ultimate goal is, and will always be, to create a better future for our precious country, Iraq.
By providing this platform Nina also offers a way for each individual voice to reach out to people in positions of authority. At the very least, by allowing people to express themselves freely, Nina offers a space to for emotional release, creating a forum to express hardships as well as successful experiences. In this way our magazine works towards reducing the amount of pain Iraqi women feel – all while supporting them (albeit in a small way), by showcasing business opportunities and educational tools.
Amal means hope in Arabic – it is therefore fitting that this introduction is linked to Amal Al Shamri’s story. You will see she has lost hope. Her painful experiences are shared in her story, The Unknown Future, which you can read below. Amal had no choice but to leave Iraq years ago to save the lives of her family. In her sixties now, this former head of the Iraqi delegation to an Eastern European country, is now an immigrant. As part of the diaspora she feels alienated, a stranger in a strange land.
It is our dearest wish that Amal is restored from being hopeless to hopeful. Sharing her story in Nina is a step towards this as well as a symbol for all of us. The story we have edited below summarizes what she sent. Nina’s pages are insufficient to embrace the story and suffering of Amal, but maybe you, as readers, can help complete her journey.
We believe that by publishing this we are demonstrating to Amal that Iraq has undoubtedly changed for the better. The fact that we are publishing her article transparently and without hesitation bears testament to this. Just a few years ago, Iraqi citizens were not even enjoying their most basic rights, such as the freedom of expression. In publishing her story, we are trying to assure Amal and others like her that Iraq was and will be loyal to her.
Amal Al Shamri writes for nina-iraq.com
The Unknown Future
By Amal Al-Shamri, Immigrant from Iraq
Amal writes this story as a cry for her country and her life, in her eyes much of both have been lost. She explores a “better future” and whether it is possible to remain loyal to the memory of the Iraq, whilst building this future. Her questions will resonate with all of us. Where is this road we are on leading us to? Is there an end in sight for the hardship experienced by thousands of Iraqi refugees and when will that be…?
I can still remember the a optimism and aspirations for a better Iraq following 2003. We were hoping to move beyond a dark chapter in our country; the result of war, economic sanctions and siege. Despite the destruction and theft of archaeological remains, banks, official departments, hospitals etc during the events of 2003, we were still hoping for a better future and dreaming of a new chapter in Iraq’s history. We wanted the rule of law as well as economic, scientific, cultural and other areas of advancement to prevail. Being aware of the fact that it would take a long while to realize that dream, we were still ready to wait and contribute to rebuilding our country in order to achieve a bright future.
However, significant corruption meant that our national security was non-existent. Killing and kidnapping incidents started to occur on a daily basis and horror and anxiety became prevalent in our lives. We used to leave the house with no guarantee of a safe return, and we closed our doors early as we feared criminal gangs. Despite all this, we still had hope inside our souls that these events were only casual incidents. We believed that justice would take its course, with safety and security returning to our country in due course. However, the incidents escalated and worsened. In 2006 a group of criminals bombed two sacred shrines in Samarra. This incident was manipulated by enemies of Iraq, and criminals from all sides started random killings. Our family, like all families in Iraq, lost over 10 innocent people as a result.
One day in the same year, a criminal militia tried to kidnap my son. God’s mercy saved him from the clutches of these criminals but the incident had a huge impact on him. Slowly, as he became lost in desperation, his liveliness and youthfulness disappeared- along with the smile which he always had on his face. It was this that made us decide to move to Amman. We wanted to wait until the situation returned to normal. However, a month later, we had to return to Iraq. We just as couldn’t afford the high living costs in Amman. My son then left school as he feared getting kidnapped again. We experienced days of horror. I personally witnessed some kidnapping cases on my way to work. Kidnappers would shoot guns over our heads so that we wouldn’t recall their faces.
Shortly after this, my neighbors and I received threatening notices asking us to leave our houses within 72 hours. Failure to do so would result in us being killed. So, my two sons and I had to pack up in just hours and leave to go to a friend’s house. My children sacrificed their school and jobs in order to save their lives.
A month later, my family moved to Syria. I stayed, working in Iraq so I would be able to provide for me and my family. Less than a month later, my 34-year old brother survived an assassination attempt which resulted in him losing an eye and a smashed nose. Following this I decided to leave Iraq along with my brother. He had to endure seven operations, but to this day he still has marks on his face.
In June 2007, while I was in Syria, I received a piece of good news. It was June and I was assigned as the Head of the Iraqi Delegation to an Eastern European country. I moved there with my family and my sons were able to attend school again.
My role meant that I worked hard in order to present a positive image of Iraq as well as Iraqi women. My team was small and I used to work for long hours in order to keep up with the workload. Through this three-year service I provided the greatest contribution to my country Iraq and my work was reocgnised by ministry officials from both Iraq and the host country. I was honored by the ministry as a distinguished employee.
However, afterwards, I was harassed at work and deprived of legal and financial rights. I wasn’t even issued with a new Iraqi passport after the one I had expired! This affected my health and I was illegitimately forced into retirement.
To my mind the question remains: Is there a law in my country that protects my rights and is there someone to support me? The only way authorities of my host country would provide me with asylum was as a permanent resident. This meant that , although I had initially refused the idea of my sons applying for asylum (as I was hoping to return back to my country) after two years of desperate waiting, my family eventually accepted it. I swear that I have never been as sad and have never cried more than I did that day. I love my country and I never imagined that one day I would have to abandon it and stay away from family and friends as well as childhood memories.
Today I feel that I’m walking on a ‘mirage’, with no clue of what will ultimately happen to me and my family. This uncertainly has intensified both my mental and physiological pain, especially when I think of how I dedicated my whole life to serve my country! Did I do it to be kept away from my own country, to be deprived from my rights at old age, and be humiliated at the end? It makes me think that people with principles have no place in this world. I cry for my country and my life. I have lost both for no valid reason. This is only a small part of what I’ve been through and I cannot predict what is going to happen. The questions that haunt me now: Is this how loyal Iraqis are rewarded? Where are we going? Is there an end for this hardship experienced by thousands of Iraqi refugees like me? And when will that be?
A better tomorrow will come in our country Iraq. One real voice offers a light in the darkness and if enough lights come together, a new day dawns. Please use Nina to share your story.
In Arabic: http://xn—-ymcba3c6bxdmoa7b.com/2014/10/15/%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%84-%D9%88%D9%86%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%88%D8%BA%D8%AF-%D8%A3%D9%81%D8%B6%D9%84/