I met her when I was volunteering, assisting displaced families in Baghdad. She had a baby in her lap, whom I thought was her brother. It would never have occurred to me that it was her third child. Her innocence, small size and paleness made me guess that her age was no more than 20. I approached her and asked about her condition. Her name was Sara, she was 18 years old and had three kids. She married when she was 13. She found no other way to survive after her father had died in an explosion in 2003, under the US occupation, and her mother also passed away some time after that. She had moved to her elder sister’s and to get rid of the financial burden that she was, her sister encouraged her to marry her cousin, who was 19.
“Never did I attend school,” Sara told me with frozen feelings and dry eyes. “I’m illiterate. My husband was a manual worker who earned daily wages. He was skillful in his work. I had two children. While I was visiting my relatives in Baghdad, I went into labour with my third child. My husband could not come to that Shiite area because he belonged to a different religious sect. I stayed with my relatives for nearly two weeks. Then, when my husband tried to come to take me back something must have happened, I lost contact with him. I looked for him for days until I found his body in the fridge of the Forensic Medicine Office. My baby wasn’t even 40 days old when I buried my husband.”
Her husband was killed by criminal militias who are still looking for preys in Baghdad to murder and mutilate. That is part of the sectarian violence currently taking place in Iraq.
When I asked Sara how she supports her children, she answered, “By begging.” She earns less than 8 USD/day. Though she and her children are living in her sister’s house, she is responsible for providing for them.
Sara did not speak much. In her heart she kept lots of pain, sadness and fear. In that tender age, how much is she exposed to while roaming the streets of Baghdad? What future awaits her children?
I offered her the assistance I could and left with many unanswerable questions. How many women are in a situation similar to hers? How many women are being abused in exchange for some food and a place to stay? What about those who are besieged in the Sinjar Mountain or the old or sick Christian women who have had to flee from their homes and now have no place to stay? What about the women who are sold in human trafficking operations? What about a whole generation of girls that have been born into this horrific darkness?
Iraq witnesses one of its most difficult times ever. There are millions of victims from killings because of race or religion, explosions, displacements, kidnappings, extortions. The country is being emptied of educated and original people, who are being replaced by gangsters and criminal militias in the name of religion and sectarianism. The weak government is aware of all this, in fact it lets sectarian violence flourish. Iraq has risen to the top of the international list of corruption.
Women remain the most vulnerable in this deterioration and lack of security. Every day, the number of widows and orphans grows and many women are also struggling to overcome illiteracy, lack of financial resources, being without official documents and/or a home.
Will the Iraqi women keep on asking for help? Will they keep on offering martyrs for the altar of freedom? A freedom that was offered by the US invaders on a platter that spilled blood and smelled of destruction, disaster and hardships. Iraq is suffering daily, but is there any chance for dawn to break and for a brighter future of security and peace?
Kvinna till Kvinna’s Programme Officer in Baghdad