The Words of the Irikura Family

Advocacy and Assistance for Iraqis in Jordan

Fusayo Irikura
March 9, 2010
Women's Federation for World Peace-Jordan

Iraqis who came to Jordan for refuge face many challenges in seeking housing, food, and medical care. The Woman's Federation for World Peace offers a listening ear, advocacy, and tangible assistance. Here are some typical situations:

Ali: In November 2008, a thief entered Ali's home, stealing 200 jd* cash and various possessions. He reported it to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office. They recommended that he report it to the Mizan Law Group for Human Rights. He went to Mizan and was told to complain to the police. But he did not go to the police since Iraqis in Jordan are liable to be arrested for complaining, even if they are innocent.

In March 2009, two Palestinians stole from Ali and beat him severely. He decided to complain to the police, who came to search for the thieves but could not find them. The two Palestinians returned with two friends and beat him again. He went to the Protection Family Center near the UNHCR office. There he was accused of harming a Palestinian child and sentenced to the Juwaidi jail, where he was beaten and pressured to admit he was guilty of harming a child. After 45 days, he was transferred to the Kafafa jail, where he spent 135 days.

During this time Ali sent his friend to Mizan to ask them to look into his case, but they did not help him. His friend paid 2000 jd to a new lawyer, who took his case. A judge ruled that the two Palestinian brothers were guilty, but they escaped. His passport is being held in the Protection Family Center.

Kareem: This father of five children has been in economic difficulties since last November. Without explanation, their cash assistance was stopped. I asked UNHCR to resume their cash assistance because the family has been suffering so much. When the father had a hernia operation, they were unable to pay their rent of 75 jd that month, and we gave them 120 jd. Even though his health is poor, Karem has been working illegally. Sometimes, the only way the family can survive is by using the small amount of money that an NGO training center gives them to cover transportation costs to take courses.

Dheyaa: This father of four children is exhausted by the difficult living conditions and medical problems. One son has been very sick and has undergone ten surgeries on his intestines. Dheyaa has heart problems and is often exhausted. There is a lot of mold in the building where they live, and one daughter has developed skin problems.

Like many Iraqis, Dheyaa is not able to work legally in Jordan. Sometimes he is able to get work as an electrician, but he has not been paid for a long time. Recently, their electricity was cut off. We paid their back bill of 120 jd.

Dheyaa sometimes wonders whether it might be better to return to Iraq and risk being killed there than staying in Jordan under such difficult circumstances. Many Iraqis are living in similar situation, and the fathers are frustrated and exhausted by their family responsibilities. Hameed: This father of three children is worried about how to cover medical expenses. A ten-year-old daughter is very sick. The children need special medicine for their medical conditions that costs 2000 jd every month. There is no assistance to cover their medical expenses. Their best hope is to be accepted for resettlement in a country where they can receive proper medical care.

Thejel: This father of five children suffers from asthma and is unable to work. He receives 245 jd per month in cash assistance from UNHCR, but in order to survive, they are forced to live in the cheapest housing, where the monthly rent is 70 jd. The living conditions are bad: the rooms are very humid with no sunlight. The children suffer from insect bites as they sleep.

Akram: This father of two babies was injured seriously by an explosion in Baghdad. He has had many operations and lost one eye. He needs special eyeglasses that cost 700 jd. Without these eyeglasses he risks infection.

Jassim: This father of four children was a truck driver in Baghdad and was kidnapped in 2007 and tortured for 14 days. He was rescued by the US Army but has been suffering from the effects of the torture. He went to Syria for five months and then returned to Iraq. But he did not want to risk visiting his family. In December 2009 Jassim came to Jordan and stayed in a cheap hotel, which charges 2.5 jd per day. (When Iraqis come to Jordan, they must stay in a hotel until they find a place to rent.) We paid the 125 jd he owed the hotel and gave him 50 jd for food. He has found a cheap place to rent. Many nights he is unable to sleep, worrying about the future, and is now taking strong medicine to help him sleep.

Nashimah: This father has four children, one with a handicap. Recently, his mother needed an operation on both eyes. The cost was 600 did, and Caritas, a Catholic charity, promised to pay 300 did. Nashimah asked me for help. I asked the UN to help, but since he had not applied for support from UN, they were unable to assist. I asked Caritas for additional help, but they did not reply. Finally one Iraqi lady offered 100 jd, we gave him 100 jd, and he borrowed 100 jd. Finally he could pay his mother's hospital bill of 600 jd. Many Iraqis are suffering because of difficulties paying for medical care.

Hussein: This 24-year-old lives with his brother, who suffers from a liver condition and is undergoing treatment for depression. Hussein works as a laborer from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM to earn 220 jd per month. Their monthly rent is 130 jd, and the remainder goes for medicine, food, and transportation. To survive, he borrows money from his friends.

Jinan: This woman has a son age 16 and a daughter age 19. Her husband was killed in 2006 by militia at a checkpoint. Afterwards, she and children went to Syria. Living conditions were so difficult there that after three months they returned to Iraq, where they lived with her sister's family for two years. Jinan got a job as a teacher, but unfortunately she got breast cancer. She had surgery in Iraq and borrowed money from her sister to come to Jordan to seek better treatment. They spent the winter months without heat or adequate blankets. Lacking a cook stove, their meals have been sandwiches. We brought them three blankets, two carpets, some clothes and cash assistance.

* The exchange rate of Jordanian dinars to US dollars has been approximately 1.45/1.00. 

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