International Rescue Committee (IRC)

One Iraqi family’s personal tragedy

While Iraq is full of tragic personal stories, Amal’s* is particularly poignant. She has been a widow since the death of her husband years ago soon after the Iran-Iraq war. For more than three decades she lived in a mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood of Baghdad, where she raised her three children. To pay for her children’s schooling, and to put food on the table, she baked bread to sell to her neighbors. Once her sons Akram* and Marzuq* completed their education, they went to work to support their mother, and their sister Radwa*. 

In 2000, Akram was arrested by the authorities under suspicion of being linked to a political party that was perceived as opposing Sadaam Hussein’s Baath party. He was jailed and later executed. His body was returned to the family only after Amal paid the cost of the bullet used to kill him. Amal was forced to remain silent surrounding the circumstances of her son’s death and secretly buried his body in the garden of their home. 
 
In 2005, Amal moved in with her surviving son Marzuq. By this time Marzuq had opened a small shop next to their home where he sold shoes and women’s handbags. He supported his mother and sister until Radwa was married later that year. All seemed to be going better for the family, until tragedy struck again, only two years later. 
 
On that day, Amal heard gunfire outside the house. While sectarian violence was rife in Baghdad during those years, she immediately sensed calamity had struck her family again. She ran out to find a group of masked men fleeing in a car. They left behind the body of Marzuq. He’d been shot dead.  
 
Only days later, Amal herself was threatened by an unknown group of men. She fled her home, first to stay with friends in a nearby province, then to another Baghdad neighborhood where she moved in with relatives.  
 
Her hope of a better life was renewed in 2008, when she was able to move into a camp built by the Iraqi government. Today, she lives there with her daughter and three young grandchildren in temporary housing. Radwa’s husband had abandoned his family soon after the birth of his third child. 
 
Amal applied for government support last year.  Iraq provides compensation to those victimized during the past eight years of conflict, consisting of cash and property. It’s a program that has been welcomed by Amal and others who’ve lost loved ones, but it remains difficult to access. Amal has yet to receive any support for the loss of her sons.  Currently she has no source of income, apart from charity, and no means to buy a permanent home.
 
The IRC is now working with Amal to access her legal rights. This, too, has been problematic. Because she initially filed the paperwork for support, the IRC has had difficulty in working on her behalf.  Today, IRC social workers and lawyers are still navigating the process to determine how she can finally receive the assistance she is entitled to by law. 
 
*Names and dates have been changed and specific details omitted to ensure the family’s anonymity

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