Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Insha’Allah is an Arabic word meaning “God willing” and is used to express hope for a future event.

I heard that expression of hope in such passionate and despairing ways today. This morning I was invited to be a guest at a counseling session for a group of Iraqi women. The session was held in the home of one of the SHS programs active community leaders. Eight amazing women were there – the youngest was about 20 and the oldest 78 years old. These women are all from middle class Iraq, highly educated and were professionals back at home (there was an accountant, principle of a primary school, social worker for disabled children, pharmacist and teacher), one was even talking about looking at her home in Iraq on Google Earth!

They welcomed me warmly into their lives and shared their powerful and unimaginable stories.

They didn’t want to leave their homes but they were threatened, family members were kidnapped and killed, they lost everything they owned.
– the pharmacists office was near what became the Shia area of town, she was told to leave or die
– one woman’s husband, a geologist, had been working with the UN, his life and life of all his family was threatened
– one woman is a Sunni, her husband is a Shia they were not going to be allowed to live in the same area anymore
– as one family saved money they built their house, which was for their entire family – grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, children – the coalition forces bombed their neighborhood and nothing is left
– 20 boys from one woman’s community, including her family members, were rounded up and shot
– the 78 year old woman is all alone here, her 2 sons are in Australia, but she isn’t allowed a visa. Her words: “I don’t want to die here alone”.

This is just a portion of the stories that were shared. These stories weren’t shared just for me, these women needed to be heard. These stories weren’t shared easily, and they weren’t easy to hear. Everyone in that room was in tears, including me. I sat there listening to these horrible stories of fear, death, despair and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it is like.

Here I am, with my higher education, my well paying job, my little house in the burbs, and suddenly my family and I are no longer safe in our own community, not even in our own country. I must leave everything immediately and head to a new country where I am not legal, can not get a job, can not use any of my skills I worked so hard to build. I can’t take care of my family because I can’t make any money, and my family is no longer complete as some have been killed, some have been kidnapped, and others are spread all over the middle east or the world and I am not allowed to travel to them.

What are my options? I’m at a loss. When these women start talking about options, they speak of hope. Hope that Iraq gets better soon so they can go home and rebuild their lives. Hope that their families can live as good a life as possible while they are here in Jordan. Hope that they can learn something here to better themselves for when they return to Iraq. And their hopes always end with “Insha’Allah”.

For over 3 hours these women sat, drank tea, shared their stories, hopes, and fears. They laughed, they cried, I laughed, I cried. I felt despair for these women, but also profound respect and amazement at their strength.

At the end of the session, they all came to me and thanked me for being there. What have I done for them to be thankful for? One woman actually came to me and said it was an honor for her that I was at the session. That blew me away. Here I am, an American, a representative of the country that in reality has destroyed her life, and she is honored to meet me? I felt so small at that moment. It is by far an honor for me to have met these amazing women, an honor that they have welcomed me so warmly into their lives, an honor that they see me as someone who wants to help try to fix the wrongs that my country has inflicted on them. I only hope that I can share their stories and their forgiveness and acceptance and move you to be touched by their strength as I am. Insha’allah.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm completely speechless. It really puts things in perspective, doesn't it? Glad you are safe. Keep blogging, it's nice to keep track of your experiences.