Two million Iraqis have fled their homeland since 2003. CRWRC is partnering with various organizations in Syria and Jordan to provide food aid, blankets and heaters, trauma counseling and education to Iraqi men, women, and children wounded by their experience of war and as a refugee.
Ken Little, a CRWRC International Relief Manager, recently met with several Iraqi refugees on a recent trip to Syria and Jordan. This is the first in a series of four stories Ken heard along his travels:
Rowaida Noel Tofic lives with her husband and their 5 children in a three room apartment in a poor community in Aleppo, Syria. She is an English teacher with 25 years experience at the primary school level. Her twin daughters, age 16, both work in a sewing factory to help provide for the family. Only the youngest, a 10 year old boy, is in school. Rowaida’s husband is a retired civil servant who worked in the Iraqi health department.
The apartment leaks and is discolored from mold and moisture. A diesel heater sat in the corner to provide some warmth. When I asked about getting the right documents so her daughters could return to school she responded, “But then how would we live? We need to keep working so we can live.”
The family left Baghdad and moved to a border town when militant groups threatened their family for teaching girls in the school. Militants then attacked the school, outlawed the teaching of English, and imposed the veil and long sleeves. Finally in December 2006, a car bomb went off just outside the Tofic’s wood frame home totally destroying it. On Christmas Eve, they fled Iraq.
Rowaida and her family now faithfully attend the “Jesus is the Light” church in Aleppo, because her sister, now leaving in Sweden, phoned and urged them to go. The family began attending the church, and say they feel very loved by the congregation and the pastor.
When asked about their future, Rowaida lifted her hands to the heavens in the form of a prayer and with tears in her eyes said, “Only God knows. We cannot work in Syria and we have nothing to return to. It is not safe to return.”
by Stephanie Tombari