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IRAQ REFUGEE CRISIS - A diary from Damascus.

We went back to Saida Zeinab yesterday to conduct more interviews with refugees and were invited into the home of a family who left Baghdad for Damascus in November, 2006. The family were too afraid to provide their real names, as they have relatives still living in Iraq, so I’ll call the father and mother Housein and Zeinab, respectively, and the children, Abas, Aysha and Nour.

Zeinab explained that her right leg was amputated below the knee following a bomb explosion in the town of Najaf in June, 2005, that killed two people. She suffered extensive burns in the blast, and her body is still covered in shrapnel lodged painfully just below the surface of her skin. Abas was also hurt but fortunately did not suffer serious physical injuries, though goodness knows what psychological damage has been done to this boy of six-years-old.

“I was taken to hospital and my father and brother-in-law came to visit. Our family are Shiah Muslims and when they (the father and brother-in-law) left the building, both were shot dead by a Sunni militia who’d seen them come into the area,” Zeinab said.

During her stay in hospital she was given a blood transfusion and now has high cholesterol levels as a result, which has exacerbated her health problems. She waved a packet of pills in the air.

“These are very expensive to buy as we have hardly any money. We get food rations from the UN but that is all and our family in Iraq have to send money so we can pay our rent,” she said.

Zeinab then told us that in a separate incident her 10-year-old daughter Zahra (we are allowed to use her real name) was killed when a mine she picked up – possibly a cluster bomb – exploded in her face. This is something she will never come to terms with, she added.

“We would like to return to our home in Iraq but it is not safe just now so we have no choice but to stay here,” she said.

I asked what Zeinab thinks of the people who perpetrate these types of atrocities in the name of religion and she shook her head and opened the palms of her hands outwards.

“I feel like killing them – but that’s forbidden under Islam, so I would take them to court,” she replied.

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