|Diary of an Assyrian family in war-torn Iraq|
- Thursday, August 4 2005, 10:41:47 (CEST)|
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Diary of an Assyrian family in war-torn Iraq
My maternal uncle George was living in the U.S. but had six children and a wife in Iraq. Their names:
Joni, Toni, Edmond, Raymond, James, Ibtisam, and their mother Emily.
They all lived happily in Basra.
Because of a 13 years of sanctions, Emily, the mother, couldn’t receive medical attention for her diabetes. After a few years she began deteriorating and Saddam declared a new law that all the sick and the old that wanted to leave Baghdad could. So Emily came to the United States and got her dialysis.
-Toni had been inducted into the Iraqi army to fight against Iran. During the Iraq/Iran war, he was taken a prisoner of war, where he served seven years in an Iranian prison. After he got out he married his childhood sweat heart, an Assyrian girl, and left the country to Syria where he waited to come to Canada. Now he lives an obscure life with his wife and children,
I processed immigration papers for the rest of the family to come to America, and join their father. Just 2 days after 911 the family had an interview in Jordan but they were told NO ONE goes to America now. Everyone from the Middle East is considered a terrorist and can’t go to America. So they went back to Baghdad. In the meantime, my uncle George died without seeing his children,
-Joni, the millionaire, was thriving in Basra. He owned a string of liquor stores. He married a Chaldean girl and together they raised four children, Allen, Andy, Gina, and Danny. After the Shia’a uprising in Southern Iraq, Saddam cut off their electricity and water in Basra, and Joni and his family were forced to abandon their mansion and their businesses and move to Baghdad. He opened a couple of supermarkets in Baghdad, but that didn’t last long, because Bush Jr. decided that Iraq needed DEMOCRACY. So just before the first bombs fell on Baghdad, he took his family to Jordan, where they had to live in the ghettos of Amman and they were told they couldn’t work.
He decided to take his family to Turkey, where they were putting people on flights to Germany for $7,000.00 dollars each. He got his family out of there in a few weeks but there was no room for him on plane, (so he was told). He stayed behind while his wife Hanan and the children were put in a refugee camp near Hamburg. After several months, I called again and asked him why the Turk was not putting him on a plane? And he said “I ask every day, but he makes excuses”. I finally pressured him to ask the Turk when his turn would come. The Turk finally confessed that he had spent Joni’s money on surgical and other medical procedures for his elderly parents. Another few months went by and the Turk one day decided to inform the law that he was harboring illegal Iraqi refuges in his house. Apparently the Turk had spent everyone’s money.
The Turkish police came in the middle of the night and raided the house and cuffed Joni and all the people living in the Turk’s house. They loaded them up in a truck and threw them in the middle of nowhere, (some where near the Greek border). For seven days Joni and his refugee friends had no water, no food, and no shelter, where they could stay warm. On the eighth day the Turk’ conscience couldn’t take it anymore so he called another coyote in Athens to go pick them up lest they die in the wilderness. The Greek went and picked them up and brought them to Athens. Devastated, my cousin Joni called me from Athens screaming and wailing, trying to tell me what the Turk did to him and all the Iraqi refugees he swindled. The Greek came on the line to tell me that if I send $7000.00 that he would put my cousin on a plane to Germany the next day.
I had no choice but to trust the Greek, and wired the money. To his credit, the Greek put my cousin on a plane headed to Germany and Joni joined his family in a refugee camp in Pinneberg. They can’t work, their children can’t go to school, and every interview they have with the German officials, they are told that when things get back to normal in Iraq, they will be sent back.
-Ibtisam and her husband John, along with their three daughters, Mariam, Anita, and Sara left Baghdad at the sound of the first bombs. They made it to Damascus until they got a lottery ticket to come to Canada. Now she’s in Toronto working in a pizza parlor, and her husband in a factory.
-Edmond and his wife Haifa, a Jacobite Assyrian girl, were both Engineers in Baghdad. They took their children to northern Iraq during the bombing. A few months later, they came back to their house in Karrada but a Mullah in their neighborhood was passing our flyers that said, “Christian women are not to come out of the house with covering their hair and wearing an abbaya”. So the next day, Raymond signed the house and business over to his brother James. He took his wife and children and went to Syria, where they are waiting to get a lottery ticket to come to Canada.
-Raymond and James are the only ones left in Baghdad out of the entire family. They operate the grocery stores under daily insurgent attacks.
Emily’s kidneys finally gave out. She held on as long as she could to see her children. On her death bed in the hospital in Turlock, she kept looking at the door to see if one of her children would walk in at the moment of her death. Out of six children, not one of them could be at her side. Just before her death, I took my cell phone into the hospital room and dialed Ibtisam’s number in Canada. I didn’t know what else to do!
Ibtisam, crying and wailing on the line was saying good bye to her mother, Emily for the last time, through a CELL phone. Being a refugee herself, she could not get permission to come and say good bye to her mother. Joni, stuck in a camp somewhere in Germany, couldn’t make it either. Toni stuck in Canada couldn’t get a visa. Edmond, still waiting for his lottery couldn’t make it either. Neither could the boys in Baghdad.
During Emily’s eulogy I had to tell a bunch of strangers why not one of this loving mother’s children could make it to her funeral.
I don’t think Emily ever dreamed of raising 6 loving children, only to die alone.
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