Jordan – An Interview with Kareem, An Iraqi Refugee – by FRRME Relief Worker, Heather Joy Quinones

September

Dear Friends,

Every week here in Amman we visit the community of Iraqi refugees we are helping by providing them with food, medicine and shelter. The eldest man in this community is Kareem. He is very thin and walks with a cane. His eyes are gentle and his demeanor is calm and rhythmic. I would describe him as observant, caring, and the best of listeners.

A younger man works as a translator for us but there are times when he doesn’t understand a word we say. It is then that he looks to Kareem, who translates what we have said into Arabic to help the translator. Even though Kareem does not speak fluent English, he understands what we are saying.

Kareem with his three daughters

Kareem with his three daughters

We sat down with Kareem, who is always dressed in slacks and a button-up shirt that has the feel of the 1920s. Kareem has been married to Siham for 16 years and has three daughters. He is, to our surprise, only 57 years old. Kareem had lived in Baghdad his whole life until sectarian violence there caused him to leave in 2006 and relocate his family to Mosul in the north of the country. Mosul was annexed by ISIS in June last year and Kareem and his family had to flee for a second time.

When we asked Kareem what the hardest part about being a refugee is, he replied: “Being strangers in a foreign land.”  So often, Westerners think that Arab countries are facsimiles of each other and that the differences are marginal. But for Kareem, the difference between Iraq and Jordan is huge.

Providing for his family is extremely difficult for Kareem. He is unable to provide for his three young daughters and this is a great source of anxiety. Previously, he had worked with a photocopying company in Iraq. However, in Jordan it is against the law for him to work. Jordan will not give work permits to refugees – this is to discourage people like Kareem from going to Jordan, even when they have nowhere else to go. Kareem also struggles with a hip replacement, the result of a bad automobile accident, which makes caring for his family even more challenging.

Kareem fled the historic city of Mosul, now controlled by Islamic State

Kareem fled the historic city of Mosul, now controlled by Islamic State

Kareem and his family fled Mosul on Wednesday 6th August 2014. On that day, Kareem received a phone call from a friend. It was late at night and his friend told him he had to flee for his life; that his whole family had to flee immediately. He walked outside. There was no electricity anywhere, not even the sound of emergency generators. It was dark and everyone was gone. Kareem and his family left their home at 11.00pm – they took nothing with them, they simply walked out into the desert in the clothes they were standing in.

After walking for 25 miles in the dark, at around 4:00am Kareem and his family were picked up by a complete stranger who offered to drive them to the relative safety of Dohuk, where Kareem’s mother-in-law lived. Two months later, the family made their way to Amman in Jordan and Kareem has not seen his homeland since. Interviewing Kareem reveals a sadness many Iraqi refugees feel:

“What do you hope for? What do you want?” I asked Kareem. He answered: “I want a place where I can settle down that is safe and to guarantee the future of my children. For myself, I don’t want anything, only for my family.”

“Would you ever go back to Iraq?” I asked. Kareem said: “If there was peace, I would.”

Kareem is the first Iraqi refugee that I have heard say he would choose to go back to Iraq if the fighting there ended. I am sure there are many like him. My conversation with Kareem reminded me of this quote by Mother Teresa:

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me.  I was homeless and you took me in.’”

Please donate to The Emergency Appeal for Iraqi Refugees to help people like Kareem

Please donate to The Emergency Appeal for Iraqi Refugees to help people like Kareem

If you would like to help Kareem and his family, or other Iraqi refugee families who have fled to Jordan, you can do so by visiting our new Just Giving page: The Emergency Appeal for Iraqi Refugees.

Heather Joy Quinones

Relief Worker

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME)

Jordan – Relocating Iraqi Refugee Families – A Project Update from FRRME Relief Workers, Richard and Christy Sherrod

September

Dear Friends,

Relocating Iraqi refugee families is one of FRRME’s most important projects. Many of the people we help have fled the sectarian violence in Iraq and are now living in poverty in Jordan. Thanks to your generous donations, FRRME is able to give these people food, a roof over their heads, and hope for the future.

Cramped living conditions of Iraqi refugee families in Amman

Cramped living conditions of Iraqi refugee families in Amman

Visiting with families in their temporary homes, we see first-hand the conditions they are forced to endure. While it is better than living under the tyranny of ISIS, there is one thing to consider – most of these Iraqis are not used to this kind of life. They are educated and have worked hard to provide for their families. Many have built their own businesses and their own homes. They are engineers, doctors, lawyers and business owners who have enjoyed life with family and friends. To have all this taken away in the blink of an eye is a tragedy that takes faith and courage to overcome.

One of our first projects in Jordan involved several families living in a church – Father Khalil of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marka (a suburb of Amman) took them in after hearing they had been dropped off by the side of the road. Not knowing where to go, or what to do, these families found safety and comfort in Father Khalil’s church compound. As time went by, more families came to the church for refuge. Over time, the living space grew smaller and the time grew longer.

Buses supplied by FRRME take Iraqi refugee families to their new home

Buses supplied by FRRME take Iraqi refugee families to their new home

FRRME has relocated several families from Father Khalil’s church to a home designed for community living in another area of Jordan. This building was brand new and ready for them to move in to. FRRME’s team on the ground furnished the building, arranged the move and, as a result, Iraqi refugee families can start to rebuild their shattered lives. It is important to note that proper relocation work is sometimes slow and requires long-term resources and patience.

Iraqi refugee families with Richard and Christy Sherrod in their new home

Iraqi refugee families with Richard and Christy Sherrod in their new home

It has now been six months since we relocated these families (and many more) to their new homes and it has renewed their hope and strength to continue. It is a blessing to be a part of something so inspiring and it is thanks to generous donations that this vital work is able to continue.

Richard and Christy Sherrod

Relief Workers

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME)

 

 

Iraq – Baghdad and Kurdistan – An Update from FRRME’s Projects Director in Iraq, Dr Sarah Ahmed

August

Things in Iraq are not getting any better. In the south of the country, there are huge problems – non-stop protests and an uprising against government corruption. There is no infrastructure and nothing works – no electricity and no clean water. In the north of the country, in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, the situation is no better. Electricity only comes on for six hours a day, prices for everything are extremely high, and people haven’t been paid in months. Not to mention the ongoing threat from ISIS. But FRRME is persevering in its amazing work.

Dr Sarah Ahmed with displaced Iraqi children in Kurdistan

Dr Sarah Ahmed with displaced Iraqi children in Kurdistan

In the south, we have a brilliant relief program which provides food and medical treatment for families. FRRME’s clinic at St. George’s Church in Baghdad continues to offer free daily medical care, as well as emergency operations for people who desperately need them. We are also providing living expenses for people looking after family members with severe physical or learning disabilities. In addition, we are providing rented accommodation for those who have been made homeless as a result of sectarian violence and persecution.

In the north, it is a bigger and more complex situation. With ISIS on the ground, thousands of Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and Muslims from the region have become Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and the needs are enormous. FRRME’s medical relief program in the north is providing vital treatments, from chronic illness prescriptions for the elderly to lice and scabies medicine for the children. FRRME also provides food packages on a monthly basis to those living in the camps.

Sarah IDPs 3

In addition to the relief work, FRRME is working with other church organisations to provide an education for the children. Currently, we have a small school that has been in operation for the past eight months and we now have a summer school that hosts around 150 students. The teachers are all IDPs themselves and are keen, despite their situation, to help out. We also have a housing program which is providing shelter for thousands of people and, wherever possible, we are creating jobs and volunteer opportunities in the camps for those who want to help.

One of our more sensitive and important projects involves taking care of the Yazidi and Christian girls that were taken by ISIS. After being freed, these girls have nothing, and they come to us with all kinds of medical issues, from pregnancy to psychological trauma. We are doing what we can to help care for these girls and help them to recover from the terrible violence they have experienced.

Thanks to your kind support, prayers and generous donations, FRRME continues to make a positive impact. If you would like to support our work in Iraq, you can do so by visiting the donate page on this website.

Peace and love,

Dr Sarah Ahmed

Director of Operations in Iraq

Jordan – An Update from FRRME’s Project Officer, Peter Christensen

July

Dear Friends,

This month I have had an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at all of the amazing work that FRRME is doing in Jordan. We are currently providing education through our school, healthcare through our clinic, and accommodation and food relief through direct interaction with the Iraqi refugees we are helping.

Right now we have around 300 students in our school, aged 8 – 14, which costs approximately £10,000 per month to fund. We are hoping to expand our education work in Jordan to include two new schools, which would allow us to help even more Iraqi refugee children continue their educations. As well as education itself, our schools provide a positive change in environment for the children, as well as the possibility of a decent job in the future. This month we celebrated the graduation of some of our students which was very heartening.

We are also helping Iraqi refugees in Jordan by providing much-needed healthcare via our free clinic. Around 50 people per week make appointments at the clinic and we provide them with dental, medical, and pharmaceutical services, as well a bus service to and from the clinic. Our costs for the clinic amount to £6,500 per month and without your generous donations we would not be able to provide this essential service.

FRRME provides free health care for Iraqi refugees in Jordan

FRRME provides free health care for Iraqi refugees in Jordan

Along with our partners on the ground, we also provide direct financial assistance. This money enables displaced Iraqis to live in proper rented accommodation, to buy food, and to pay for medical care and emergencies. In the past few months we have spent £25,000 per month providing these services to hundreds of individuals and families. By meeting the basic needs of our people in a more hands-on, case by case way, we are able to build relationships with individuals and with their networks within the wider community. Building these relationships and networks helps us to be more effective in our work over the long-term.

I am pleased to report that our work in Jordan is going very well. We are steadily expanding the services we provide and the number of people we are helping. We hope and pray this important work will develop and grow and that we can continue to assist our Iraqi brothers and sisters living in exile in Jordan.

Peter Christensen

Project Officer, Jordan

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Insights from Sarah Ahmed, Director of Operations
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