May 20th, 2007Naghia was eleven and living in Baghdad when the Iran-Iraq war broke out. Her father owned a restaurant, but lost it when he was drafted to fight. Being Chaldean Christian, they were otherwise left alone by Saddam’s regime. Even so, times got hard economically, and by the time Naghia got her BA in store management, she had to abandon plans for a Masters degree and work to help support her family. She got a job managing the stores of the Department of Education, earning a decent salary. In the early 90’s however, during the sanctions, her pay was reduced to the equivalent of $2.00 a month, both because the government couldn’t afford to pay her, coupled with the devaluation of the Iraqi Dinar. So, she quit and began doing volunteer work at the church, helping poor families as a kind of case-worker. In turn they helped her and her family. About 11 years ago, her sister had an opportunity to go to the Netherlands and abandoned her son to Naghia’s care. When some of Saddam’s men had begun questioning her father about what he may have overheard as proprietor of his restaurant, and made it clear that they would all suffer if he didn't cooperate, he decided that he’d rather leave than inform. The rest of the family went to Turkey, but Naghia and her father went to Jordan because he believed that it was easier for them to get a visa from there. And he got one, she says because he was old and was leaving his daughter behind. Naghia had a chance to get a visa for Canada, but when they refused to accept her nephew, she decided to stay. When I asked how Naghia deals with her pain and frustration, she says that she visits her friends and listens to their troubles, which are often worse than hers, so it puts it in perspective for her. She feels like she doesn’t have a choice, she has to go on living and hide her frustration or depression so as not to make her nephew feel bad. ************** PTSD and depression are rampant among the refugees. The worst part is the loss of hope which I often encountered. The most hopeful people seem to be the ones who are busy helping others. Often it means taking care of family members, and other times it takes the form of listening to their friends. A few like Zahra and Naghia become “private” social workers. Unfortunately, they often don’t have a place to go to unload their problems. If people like Naghia could have a place to spill their grief and frustration, it would make them better able to keep themselves emotionally afloat and so be in a better position to provide support for those around them.