Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another husband disappears

Wafa'a Taleb Faleh shows her UNHCR refugee papers in the small hallway of her apartment which she uses as the salon to greet guests. She is raising her 2 sons alone, her husband went to work one day and never returned. His body was never found, she has no idea what happened to him.

Wafa'a shows the ID of her husband who worked as a translator for one of the military contractors like Blackwater.

Wafa'a in the kitchen, a strong and independent woman who must work to support her 2 sons, she often suffers from severe depression and anxiety.

In 2005 Wafa’a Taleb Faleh worked with CARITAS helping people and the NEW IRAQ CHARITABLE SOCIETY showing dignitaries around Iraq. Her husband was a translator for one of the western contractors like Blackwater, (she refused to tell me which one.) Her husband was a Christian but converted to Islam in order to marry her. Wafa’ah and her husband were threatened because they worked for “the enemy as well as for being a Christian, those who threatened them would not believe they were Muslim.

On July 11, 2005 Wafa’as’ husband left the house, he never came back, his body was never found. Wafa’a suffers from severe depression in Amman, though does all she can to raise her 2 sons. She tells me she is exhausted by the stress and pressure of working illegally as a waitress for wedding parties in hotels where she earns 5 JD a night. She is sickened by the way the men at these events who call her bitch, whore and humiliate her treat her.

“We have no control over our lives, we can’t talk, we can’t complain, we can’t go to the police to report our mistreatment by people, by our neighbors. My kids are hit and beaten by the Palestinians and Jordanians, they call them names and intimidate them all the time. I just want to have the right to work, to have a home, to have some control over my life, to educate my kids. I don’t care about being rich or even going to America or wherever, I just want to be settled somewhere. I can’t go back to Iraq, they will kill me, and then what will happen to my sons,” says Wafa’a of her situation in Amman, Jordan.

She gets 140 JD from charity groups, her rent is 100 JD, she earns about 180-190 JD a month working illegally. Wafa’a went to the UNHCR to complain about her situation, they told her, “we are the UN, you can wait or you can go back to Iraq.”

*** Personal Notes:

I have listened to complaints concerning the UNHCR from almost every family I have interviewed. They tell me of rich Iraqis who were ‘invited’ to leave Iraq for America, Australia, Canada, but some of them refused saying they have a good business in Amman and don’t want to leave. In one case, so the rumor goes, the UNHCR representative drove to the rich families home with papers and full permission to leave, which the rich family refused. Another case is of a rich Iraqi whose sons are studying in Universities in America. I have tried to interview the rich families here, but to date they have all refused. Rumors, innuendos, who knows what the truth is? Each family feels their case is more important and compelling than the rest and deserve a better life, a settled life anywhere, most don’t care, as long as they can work, their children get an education, and they can, like Wafa’a said, have some control over their lives. My observations are that the Iraqis are becoming more and more disillusioned with the UNHCR yet feel helpless to plead their cases or seek legal council.

Today “M” my fixer here in Amman, told me that he was personally propositioned from one of the UNHCR caseworkers asking for US $10,000 who said he will be able to forward his case. “M” with a bemused smile said, “and how am I going to get $10,000?”

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