Friday, June 6, 2008

Portrait #15: Pleading Woman

Today we were guests of honour at the graduation ceremony of a training program for young Iraqis. The ceremony was simple but festive. We watched a powerpoint describing the vocational-lifeskills training program and then a video with testimonials of some of the students. Then we, the only foreigners in the room, were introduced to the whole group by our host, who is also responsible for the school.

We are here as representatives of a small private organisation, which the introduction made clear, but one woman was not convinced. She came up after the ceremony was over and asked our host if we were representatives of the UN. He said we weren't. She asked if we weren't connected at all, in any way, and he confirmed that we have no connection whatsoever with the United Nations.

Then she said, "Because I really just want to connect with them, I want my words to reach them somehow. I just want to talk to them!" I shook my head and tried to smile with as much empathy as possible in my face when she said this. This was a story I had heard before.

She stayed quite composed as she explained how whenever she goes to the refugee office, she is turned away, or she's directed to the end of a long queue but then the office closes before they reach her. She just wants to know if there is hope. That's all. All she wants is to talk to them, to know whether there is any hope or not. Going home really isn't an option, she said, especially not for the Christians. The situation is impossible for Christians in Iraq. But she can't even get two words with the UN. And her husband is sick, so sick he just lies in bed all day. Then the conversation changed direction a bit when she said that she really wants to talk to someone before Tuesday because she travels on Tuesday, but that's a private arrangement and only temporary. Her sister lives in Canada, so she wants to go be with them. And then she again said, she just wants some hope.

Our host interjected at every few sentences an encouragement to her to be patient, just be patient. Once she had said what she had to say and was sure we couldn't help her, she nodded and went back to her friends.

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