This is a story about Amal who is a refugee from Iraq. Amal is a lady from Baghdad with 3 small children who is an artist and I have enclosed some examples of her work. Her home in Baghdad was badly damaged by a car bomb. The security situation in Baghdad is of course now absolutely dreadful with dozens of car bombs every week and 600 people killed in the last month alone. She has had to leave Iraq and move to Amman, Jordan where I met her. Her husband remains in Baghdad where he is trying to find work but like most Iraqis simply cannot find employment.
Amal is a very pleasant lady with two boys and one girl, Ali who is 6, Omar who is 7 and Abeer who is 12. She lived throughout the Saddam era, a time that she didn’t like but at least a time, which had some semblance of order. Car bombs for example like the one, which destroyed her home, did not exist before the occupation.
She once had to do a portrait of Saddam Hussein and she had to meet him, which terrified her. He seemed to be more or less satisfied with her job and just smiled and shook her hand. Although she did not receive any payment for her work she really went “Phew! That’s a relief!”
I told her one thing which really surprised her and that is the fact that the family of Gordon Gentle have been denied a pension. Gordon Gentle was a young Scottish Royal Highland Fusilier who was tragically killed by a roadside bomb in Basra on June 28th last year. His mother Rose has been campaigning against the cccupation and recently stood for Parliament as an anti-war candidate getting a very creditable 1,500 votes. Amal said that Saddam’s government ensured that the family of any soldier who was killed in the Iran Iraq war of the 1980’s got a pension equivalent to the soldier’s salary for life and also received a gift of a car from the state. She found it incredible that the family of a deceased soldier could be refused a pension. So Tony Blair is worse than Saddam Hussein!
She also described the devastation of Iraq’s infrastructure with the electricity and water supplies still not fixed over two years after the invasion. The electricity supply in the area she lived in is 2 hours on 5 hours off at best. The same is true in other parts of Iraq for example I spoke to an Iraqi from Irbil in Northern Iraq and he said much the same. The same is also true of British controlled Basra. Local people have offered to fix the electricity free of charge but the occupation says no – overcharging war profiteers like Bechtel and Halliburton must do it.
Amal however feels no bitterness to the people of the West as she realises that it is the governments of countries who wage war – usually against the wishes of their people.
Like thousands of Iraqis she lives in Amman, the Jordanian capital city. Iraqis need a green card to live in Jordan, which is valid for just three months although this is usually extended. The children of Iraqis apparently cannot attend Jordanian state schools although they can be educated privately. There was (and still is) a lot of sympathy among ordinary Jordanians for Iraqis during the time of the sanctions (1990 to 2003) when according to UNICEF over a million people died. I remember once talking to a Royal Jordanian Airlines stewardess in 2001 and I was shocked at her angry reaction when I mentioned the sanctions on Iraq. There was indeed widespread anger among the whole Arab world (and still is) at Iraq’s disgraceful treatment by the West.
Amal lives in Amman and ekes out a living from her painting. She was very interested in the Gordon Gentle case and offered to distribute dozens of leaflets about Gordon’s case next time she goes to Baghdad.
Amal speaks and writes good English and if you would like to drop her a line you can e-mail her on: email@example.com
Or you can write to her c/o:
Amal Alwan Maseer
Al Monzer Hotel
Umayya Bin Abd Shams Street
Nr Abdali Bus Station
7 labelled photos are attached
Word count 728 words.