Page last updated at 23:39 GMT, Monday, 16 April 2007 00:39 UK

Iraqi refugees stories

As a major international conference on Iraqi refugees gets under way in Geneva, two Iraqis explain how they are coping with life in exile. A third explains why he moved his family to Iraq after spending 30 years in the US - only to leave several months later.

SUAD MOHAMED, 59, AMMAN, JORDAN

I'm a gynaecologist, my husband's a surgeon. We left in July 2006, after my husband was threatened and forced to close his clinic.

He is Sunni and had been working in a Shia town. He'd been serving that town for 25 years.

We were given a year's residency here in Amman. After that, we'll see.

The UN are hopeless; they make lists of people and do nothing with them

We are not allowed to work here. We can practice medicine if we are covered by a Jordanian doctor, but whatever fee we get from the patients, the Jordanian doctor takes half.

So, we are unemployed. We have our pensions from the state and we have our life savings. We have started to sell our belongings.

In Iraq we used to have a big villa with a big garden; now we rent an apartment. But at least we feel safe.

We have been treated extremely well by the Jordanians, but you never know what's going to happen. We hear rumours now and then that they are going to deport us; that we are a burden.

If you exceed your residency, you are charged a dinar and a half per person per day. They check your passport at the border when you leave and make you pay.

If we find another place outside the Arab world, we would go. For the time being it is better to stay than try to leave.

We tried the American embassy, but they said go to the UN. I went to the UN; they are hopeless. They make lists of people and then do nothing with them.


AMMAR ABDULLA, 28, DAMASCUS

I used to run a translating bureau in Baghdad. I left in November last year after I received a threatening letter with a bullet in it saying don't ever open the office again.

I closed up, and a few days later a car bomb went off outside and completely demolished the office.

I am here in Damascus with my two sisters. One is a doctor; she was working at a health centre in Iraq when a cleaner said to her: "Put a veil over your head or you know what will happen to you." A cleaner threatened my sister.

WHERE IRAQIS HAVE FLED TO
Iraqi refugees outside the UN refugee agency in Damascus
Syria: 1,200,000
Jordan: 750,000
Gulf states: 200,000
Egypt: 100,000
Iran: 54,000
Lebanon: 40,000
Turkey: 10,000
Source: UNHCR

My parents are still in Baghdad; that's why I can't send you a 'photo of myself, it may get them in trouble.

I moved first to Amman, but left after three months. It was too expensive and they can't stand all the Iraqis - the Palestinian Jordanians were not friendly.

It's very difficult to find work here; I am living on savings. My money will last for another four or five months.

If I finish my money I will have to return to Baghdad.

I am trying to get an appointment with the UNHCR here in Damascus. We need to apply for immigration; Australia, Canada, the UK.

There are millions of us Iraqis in Syria and Jordan, not thousands. This is why I am not hopeful.


RIZGAR KHOSHNAW, 44, WASHINGTON DC

I moved back to Iraq from the US with my wife and three children in February 2006.

I am Kurdish and spent the first 14 years of my life in Iraq.

I was travelling to Irbil for the UN on a monthly basis and was spending so much time going back and forth, I really wanted to try living there; to make a difference.

My son was in a hospital room with five other kids; two died right before our eyes within a few minutes

So, I knew what I was going to. By then I was working in a private capacity, helping rebuild Iraq.

But we left nine months later. The main reason was that my six year old son became extremely ill.

I took him to the local "hospital" for treatment and what I saw was frightening. My son almost died there.

He was in a room with five other kids. Two of the five died right before our eyes within a few minutes. I just about lost it. I stood in front of my son so he could not see the dead bodies.

There isn't the technology or the resources to build good hospitals.

From sanctions to wars, it's devastated the Kurdish people and they are suffering a great deal.

I couldn't bear to see my children suffer when I had other alternatives; so, we're now based in Washington.

My wife and kids never left the house when we were in Irbil. There are no malls to go to and there are only two seasons: too hot or too cold.

And the air itself is so polluted you can damage your kids' health.

Things didn't work out because the environment isn't healthy and people don't have access to the medical care they deserve.




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