This is Ammar, his wife Athraa and their two children, Ethan and Athena. They are an Iraqi Christian family living in Jordan who you are helping. Below is an interview we did with the family about why they left Iraq, what it’s like being a refugee in Jordan, and their hopes for the future:
FRRME: “What was your life like before you came to Jordan?”
Ammar: “We were living in a Christian town called Qaraqosh about 20 miles from Mosul. About 60,000 people used to live in Qaraqosh but now it is a ghost town. I was an art teacher. I also ran a mobile phone shop. I got married there and my two children were born there.”
FRRME: “Why did you leave Iraq?”
Ammar: “ISIS attacked Qaraqosh. There were three choices for us: convert to Islam, pay a tax, or leave. We decided to leave. We could not take anything with us, we left in our clothes and went to Erbil in Kurdistan. We stayed in Erbil for one month until we got visas for Jordan. When we got to Jordan, we lived in Marka for seven months in a church. It was a large hall with families separated by sheets. There was no privacy. It was 2 by 5 meters for each family. It was a bad life there. My children were sick and ended up in hospital. But FRRME paid for us to live in an apartment in Madaba. They continue to pay our rent.”
FRRME: “The choice that ISIS gave you, did they tell you that face-to-face?”
Ammar: “We didn’t hear this from them directly, we heard this from people who were living in Mosul. ISIS went to Mosul first and they told the Christians there this message. Those Christians then came to Qaraqosh and we all left together.”
FRRME: “It was reported that the tax didn’t always work in the way it was presented, that it was difficult to stay even if you did pay the tax. Is that correct?”
Ammar: “We heard that some of the Christian people decided to stay and pay the tax but when they went to the mosque to see how they will pay, the ISIS soldiers there refused and said this choice was no longer available. They said the Christians needed to convert to Islam or leave. They gave the Christians one week to leave Mosul, saying anyone who stayed in Mosul would be killed.”
FRRME: “Since you’ve been in Jordan, you’ve been helping us as a translator. Have you been able to do anything else to keep yourself occupied and to keep busy?”
Ammar: “I tried to work here in Madaba but I had a problem with my back and couldn’t work anymore. I thank God that FRRME paid for my surgery. It was very expensive. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to pay for this surgery myself. We have nothing. I keep myself busy by going to church and studying the Bible. I am now going to Theology seminary in Amman.”
FRRME: “Do you have any idea of how long it might be before you might be able to get asylum in a western country and emigrate?”
Ammar: “No one knows about this. Every month there are new rules. It used to take six months to leave from Jordan to Canada. Now it is at least ten months just to do the first asylum interview. After that you have to wait for another six to eight months. I applied to the Canadian embassy and I have already been here for two years. That means I will stay here over three years. I don’t know if I will survive being here for this long. And the UN is closed, especially for Iraqis and especially for Christians. Many times I went to the UN to renew my papers. When I go there, I saw the people that are going to leave. All of them were Muslim.”
FRRME: “If you make it to Canada, what would you do?”
Ammar: “I would hope to be a pastor.”
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