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“I am just like you” says Iraqi teen

Karen Button


March 15, 2007

Damascus— Danya, a petite 14-year old Iraqi, and I are sitting in a small garden, the sun shining through small green leaves pushing their way into spring. Danya and her family are in Damascus for a two week holiday---if one can call it that—from Baghdad. Certain that they wouldn’t receive a visa to visit family in the United Kingdom, the reunion will instead take place in Syria.

While thousands of Iraqis pour across Syria’s borders every day, escaping Iraq’s brutal violence, Danya’s family is one of those caught in the middle. Coming to Syria may ensure one’s physical safety, but the economic reality is harsh. Most Iraqis in Syria are not working, living off their savings instead. Because Danya’s mother has a good job in Iraq the family will remain, at least for now, in Baghdad.

"I’m really scared to go back," the 14-year old says in English, "but my mother has her work there. I hate my home; it’s very dangerous."

Danya is visibly shaking as she talks. I ask her if she’s cold. "No," she answers, "I am shaking all the time because I’m so angry all the time. But thank god my family is still alive." Her hands clasped tightly in her lap, Danya speaks in abbreviated sentences that belie the depth of her experience. "I’ve been threatened at my school just for not wearing the hijab (head covering). So now, of course, I wear it.

"Bodies are thrown in front of our school all the time. My French teacher was killed in front of us one day. It was outside the school. The police shot her by mistake.

"The thing I have to think about the most is not to go out alone. I don't go anywhere, just to school. My father drives me. Even though I go to the best school in Iraq, still I hate it. I just go to school and come home. I’m really bored. All I do is just write in my diaries.

"All my friends have left Iraq and I’m alone there. Even the teachers have left. Before, we were nine classes, now we are only three.

"It’s a tragedy to see my street. It’s not like it was before. Everything’s changed! Even the people. The Shi’a people were threatened and had to leave my neighborhood. There are barbarians now who have come to my neighborhood.

"I think the American people must think we’re barbarians, that we don’t even speak English. But, we’re just like them. They should know that. It’s an important message, especially to American girls, that I am just like you.

"I think all the American people should thank god—just being safe is enough. Just living with peace is enough. They should know there are people like themselves that are stuck in Iraq and not doing anything. You’re lucky. First of all you live in peace and I cant’. I can’t even go to the doctor, besides there aren’t any left. Even, I have something wrong with my jaw and I can’t go."

When I ask for details, Danya shows me where she feels the pain. Clearly its from her stress; she clenches her jaw constantly, even as we’re talking. "I cry every day," Danya admits. "I don’t know why. I know crying and being angry are not good for the health. I already have grey hair, but I cut it out. Maybe I won’t live very long," she states matter-of-factly and then drops into silence, contemplating.

"I really hate the oil," she finally declares. "This is the reason for all our problems. Look at this country [Syria]. There’s no oil and it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful. I just need to live in peace.

"Do you think I have the right to live outside Iraq? The last thing in the world there will be is peace in Iraq—it would be the Eighth Wonder!

"May god help me and get me out of Iraq! Anywhere! I just want to live in peace." Where would you go? She shakes her head, and looks at her lap, "I don’t know." But her brother nudges her, "yeah, you know. Where do you want to go?" She looks up and smiles. "Australia,’ she admits. Why? "Because it is so very, very far away."

www.karenbutton.blogspot.com


:: Article nr. 31416 sent on 16-mar-2007 13:39 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=31416



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