Sunday, May 16, 2010

Only Photos

I say only photos, because that is all this man had. Although it is not possible to consider one person's story more devastating than any other, I could not even begin write about this man's experience until several days later because of the intense emotion it carried. Before attempting to share this man's dreadful reality, as Sasha said to me today, "how dare I make [his] suffering my own". While I am overwhelmed by the personal sadness and discomfort brought about by hearing each and every one of these stories , I am also fully aware that my own feelings and emotions are incredibly insignificant when compared to those of the Iraqis who's stories are being told.

Last year, a middle aged Iraqi man found another Iraqi man passed out on the floor of a shop where he had been sleeping for who knows how long. When the man was taken to the hospital it was discovered that he had suffered a stroke, and had lost all movement on one side of his body. After spending four days in the hospital, he was then brought to the home of the man who found him, and has been staying there ever since. The home where he was taken in is already inhabited by 11 other children along with their mother and father. It is beyond commendable that a family with such insufficient space and resources for themselves should be so kind and loving as to take in another man with such great needs. Although this man has recovered a small portion of his speech and and can now move short distances using a cane, it still takes a great amount of effort and concentration for him to produce a simple word or sentence. Able to understand both Arabic and English, I cannot imagine the frustration that this man now faces not being able to speak comfortably in either language. While he could have easily chosen to use only writing to communicate his story to those listening, his bravery and courage were more present than ever when he instead decided to use the majority of his energy (both emotional and physical) to speak about his experiences.

While his physical situation may seem devastating by itself, there is much more involved in the story of this man's intense pain and suffering. The family he was staying with when we visited, the one with 13 family members, has been approved for resettlement to the U.S. and will most likely be moving in the next few months. Not only is this man not able to work legally because of his status as an Iraqi in Jordan, but because his physical condition after his stroke has made this possibility nearly obsolete. The savings he had brought to Jordan was stolen shortly after he arrived, adding immense financial stress to his already tragic circumstances.

The information above is only that of his most recent trauma and how that trauma has brought him to where and how he is living now. His real sadness lies in his photos. Once we had introduced ourselves and established a general foundation regarding his current medical and living situation, he began to show us his photos. Two beautiful daughters, one handsome some, and the love of his life, his wife, brought tears to both his and my eyes. After his wife and kids were offered resettlement in the U.S. last year, this family's father and husband was left behind. Although he was told his file was to be included with that of his wife and kids, this was not the case. After his family had resettled, his wife suffered from a stroke as well, only a few days apart from her husband who was still stuck in Amman. Later in the month when this man went to a scheduled interview in hope of being reunited with the rest of his family in the states, he was asked to leave the interview because he was not able to speak, read, or write clearly as it was only two weeks after having his stroke. Several days later, for reasons never fully specified to him or his family, his case was closed.

While it is not completely clear to me the numerous different places this man worked and lived while with his family in Iraq, it was clear that for two years time this man was a subcontractor working with the U.S. military. For many Iraqis, the notion of working with or helping the U.S. often results in death threats. After having his son kidnapped twice while working with U.S. forces in Iraq, he and his family made their way to Amman where they were then able to register with UNHCR and move into the stage of protection. Although his wife and children's case was obviously moved along as is evident by the fact that they are now living in the United States, this man was never clearly told what stage his case was in. When he was told via telephone that his case had been closed, no such paper record existed of his rejection for resettlement, making it impossible for him to make an appeal. While one may wonder why the majority of his family left to the U.S. instead of staying with him in Amman, the opportunities for resettlement are limited, and it was most important to him that his family go if their case was approved.

As I recently found out that the man who's story I am telling has been offered another interview with IOM (International Office of Migration) holding the possibility of resettlement, I can now think and breath without sadness of this man's tears taking over my mind. As him, his wife, and all of his children have undergone sever physical and psychological trauma for several years now, what this man needs and most obviously deserves, is to be with his family.

1 comment:

  1. I pray that this man is allowed to join his family. Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking story.