As I mentioned in an earlier post, I travelled to Amman, Jordan last month with a couple other members of the Iraq Hope Network to visit Iraqi refugees. It has taken me a long time to process everything that we saw and experienced, and I am still figuring out the best way to proceed in terms of helping to provide support. Most likely, I will be preparing an article for a magazine in order to attract peoples’ awareness to the refugees’ situation and needs, and directing them toward resources where they can help provide financial support.
Basically, we met with the Amman-based members of the Collateral Repair Project (www.collateralrepairproject.org), which is a grassroots network set up to connect displaced Iraqis together with people in the U.S. who are angered about the war and want to do something to help. The CRP has teams working in three countries, with the U.S. members collecting donations, and the members in Iraq and Jordan collecting information about the refugees and updating the website with their stories.
While in Amman, we spent around three days visiting a total of about 20 refugee families and listening to their experiences. Many of them had gone through extreme traumas such as the violent killing of immediately family members, raids by U.S. soldiers in their homes, and kidnapping threats from armed militias. Common amongst all of them was also the reality of living with extreme daily stress due to having been ripped away from their lives and thrown into a foreign land, often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Since the Jordanian government only offers residency to those with a substantial amount of money in the bank, most are forced to remain in a silent, fearful existence with no legal status or work permission, and only a huge question mark for a future.
Many of the people we met with said that they suffered from severe depression; most of them said they wanted to get out of Jordan immediately and be resettled into a third country: the U.S., Australia, Sweden, or anywhere that would take them. Needless to say, due to the continuing violence in Iraq and the lack of a guarantee for their safety, the last thing that most of them wanted to do was to return home. Despite these hardships, however, most of the people we met were extremely gracious, kind, and in possession of a very strong and often hilarious spirit (as is characteristic, I am told, of most Iraqis in general). Meeting them made it all the more clear to me that it is absolutely imperative to stop the monster that is the U.S. military machine from bringing any more destruction to the lives of any more innocent and beautiful human beings.
Here are a few photos from the trip; I will include more in whatever magazine article I end up producing.