IRAQ REFUGEE CRISIS - a diary from Damascus.
Over the past few days we've heard some harrowing stories from the refugees, but one interview we conducted yesterday really got to Angie and I. We met with Wayhda Abead Al Wahed, a mother of six children, at her two roomed home in the Jeramana area of Damascus. Wayhda, a Sabian, came from a town north of Baghdad in Iraq called Dyalaa, where her husband, Razak, was a goldsmith.
On 12th December, 2006, however, their lives changed forerevr when two masked men turned up at the family home while Razak was at work. Wayhada was pregnant at the time.
"The men came in and started beating the children and me. They put five of my children in one room, then took me and my eldest daughter, Maha, into another. 'Come here beautiful girl' they said, and then they raped Maha in front of me before taking her away. I wish they'd raped me instead of my daughter," Waydha told us sobbing.
Maha, 16, has not been seen since. And when the family reported her abduction the police refused to investigate, Wayhda said, because the family are Sabians, a minority sect of Christianity.
Initially, Wayhda did not tell Razak about the rape, but when the family arrived as refugees in Damascus two weeks later, she finally revealed everything when they registered with UNHCR. Razak collapsed when he heard of his daughter's rape and remains inconsolable.
Despite having registered with UNHCR – reg no. 980-08-03964/na – over one year ago, Wayhda says the family are still not receiving any food rations. Relatively wealthy people in Dyalaa, these people's savings are gone and at the moment they survive on charity from fellow refugees and neighbourly Syrians.
Saja, their 15-year-old daughter who is the image of her elder sister Maha, has not left the flat for more than a year out of fear she will also be abducted.
I asked Wayhda if she held out any hope that Maha was still alive.
"No hope whatsoever," she replied.
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