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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

A Note about these Blogs

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | May 27th, 2008 | Comments No Comments

Between May 16 and 25, I traveled with 9 other Americas to Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria, to meet with Iraqi refugees. I expected abject poverty, decrepit camps, broken people. What I encountered were proud Iraqis who had held positions of accomplishment and, sometimes, of wealth, back in Iraq. Both the Jordanian and Syrian governments, which are dealing with runaway inflation and high unemployment, are trying to avoid repeating the specter of permanent Palestinian refugee camps. Consequently, Iraqis are barred from legal employment. They are provided with temporary and sporadic food and medical assistance by the government and by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The stories you will read were told through translators. Although each of the refugees was eager to tell his or her story, and consented to being photographed and interviewed, I have decided to change their names to protect any family members still in Iraq. While each person’s story is unique, the recurring themes of fleeing threats for communicating with Americans, of wishing to join relatives in the US, of knowing that they can never return to their homes or homeland, and of longing for productive lives to provide their children with bright futures were prevalent.

The delegation was organized by the Middle East Fellowship (www.MiddleEastFellowship.org) under the auspices of the Middle East Council of Churches (www.mec-churches.org). However, these blogs reflect solely my own experiences and opinions, not those of any organization or other individual. The Middle East Fellowship is planning future delegations, including one tentatively planned for October 24th to November 1st, which will meet with refugees in Damascus and Beirut. (The UNHCR estimates there are up to 1.4 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and 50,000 in Lebanon.) Further information may be found at Middle East Fellowship (www.MiddleEastFellowship.org/refugee_response).

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