Fawzya: I saw these people all of whom were so deprived, so powerless. They were in need of everything. I was working voluntarily because I helped them at home, through midwifery, when someone needed a midwife, when a woman needed an injection. I would tell them, “on your responsibility if you accept I’ll do it for you.” So, I helped them. It’s called health center here. There, in Iran, it’s called Khaneye Behdasht. So, the health crew, due to my ability in speaking Farsi and due to my nationality, which was Iranian, respected me in the Iraqi Kurds refugee camps. Because I helped people, the crew liked it. They used to say they liked to have an assistant who also was a translator and make the sick refugees understand the doctors and explain their conditions. When a refugee got sick, s/he would go to hospital but was unable to explain his/her condition. When the doctor came, he was Fars and the sick refugee didn’t know Farsi. When there was an Iranian Kurd in the hospital, again the doctors and the patients understood each other as the Kurd would help in translating.

Researcher: In which city was that?

Fawzya: In this last duration before we came back (to Iraq), we settled in several camps. But the one I worked in, was Kamyaran; I worked in Kamyaran in Deh Golan. Deh Golan is a small town between Sanandaj and Quluve. It’s called a small town.

Researcher: They were all Kurds there?

Fawzya: Yah, they were all Kurds. Well, there was a village as a camp. There was a village; its name was Karim Abad. Then the camp was also named Karim Abad. Well, the Iraqi people were all there. And I said to myself “No problem, I’ll help them just for my charitable deed. Let me give a hand in this taking care of the sick refugees so that God regards it as a charitable deed for me. This means I worked for free. Well, I worked with them as midwife and if there was a pregnant woman I used to go with her as assistant. During the days, too, when I was with them at the hospital, I would translate for the patients, take care of pregnant women, of children and such works. Well, I worked with them like that. They caused lots of headaches with their sickness, death, and because they needed to be taken care of. Whenever they needed help, they would come, sometimes at one o’clock in the morning, sometimes at two o’clock in the morning. It was very difficult. Then, if you have kids, it’s difficult to leave your home and kids behind to help others in hospital. But, because there was no choice; these folks were so deprived, they were in extreme poverty, they had run away and had nothing. They had gone to Iran without anything in their possession. Whatever had been there was gone. So, your consciousness wouldn’t let you not help them. So, if it was necessary, there, in Iran, they prepared a medical file. If necessary, I had to go with them to Quluve or Sanandaj. Then, if it was for the surgery or for those women with difficult childbirth labor, I had to stay with them at night.

Researcher: Mother, how many children did you have at that time?

Fawzya: I had all the four.

Researcher: Then, wasn’t it difficult for you to come and go while you had four children, little children?

Fawzya: Well, it was difficult, but anyhow I could manage it, because Ferhad and Kawe were grown up and Banaz was at the first year of primary school. Only my Herish was very young. Herish did not go to school. And for their father, because the job opportunities were fewer there and they had closed the gate of the camp, then we were forced not to move outside that much. But the neighbors were good. I did their administrative and hospital works and they took care of my children. For example, when there was a fire, somebody getting burned, or when a guest came and I was not home, until I was back home, the neighbors would cook for me, would prepare food. If I was sick, or if for example I did not have time, they would come and they washed my dirty clothes. Then, there was no clothes washing machine or such things. They would wash our clothes.

Several times I came back home and saw that Handren’s family, Handren’s and Bahar’s and other people’s family were here. They had cooked and put the tablecloth, waiting for me to come back from work. When I was back I would see everything ready. They had not had food. I would tell them “you had to eat and not wait for me.” And they would answer “Well, we said let her come back, then we will eat.” God will not accept, our neighbors were extremely good.

Thanks to God, in my life I had never had bad neighbors. It means, apart from this year, I had never had neighbors, which were not helpful. Here in my town people in a way regard not paying visits to neighbors regularly as a sign of intellectuality. However, I don’t see this as intellectuality if neighbors don’t interact and visit each other at their homes regularly. Well, it’s so difficult not to visit your neighbor regularly, but it’s the case so, we have no option. I have always had good interaction with neighbors. Both, the neighbors and me have visited each other. Now, I am to be blamed more for this lack of strong link with my neighbors because I don’t have the same energy of the previous times for paying visits. This is because if you visit someone three to four times, then certainly s/he will feel embarrassed and will pay you a visit. Why should I complain about the neighbors now, while I have not visited them myself? So, of course, they won’t come to my house, if I don’t go to theirs because people are all strangers and don’t know each other.

Well, then my neighbors were so helpful. And I did house works at night. I would wash the clothes, cook food, do these works, so that in the morning, when I was gone my kids could have food, warm up food. When they were kids, my children were very good. But, well, now that they have grown up, they are butterfingered. They don’t eat every dish and they don’t do anything. When they were children, they were good; they would warm up food and serve themselves and wash the dishes before I was back.

Researcher: What was the father doing at that time, where was he?  

Fawzya: He was a free worker. Then, these people would all go to the city and in the city did whatever work was available; for instance, they would become construction workers. My husband was with a man, who was also from Kirkuk, for painting the walls. They painted the houses. Then, this man was a contractor. Then, my husband was with him because he was unable to do hard work as he had a surgery on his hand. Glass had gone through it and, may God keep you safe from it, it cut this finger off him. Then he was unable to do hard work with this hand. Then, he would work with this man because the painting was not that difficult. While he was with this same man, he lost his finger. Then, if there was work, he would go with him, if not, he would stay at home.

Researcher: Then what about these children of yours. If you would go to work and he would go to work, then how could these children manage their lives alone?

Fawzya: You know how it was, the days when he would go to work I wouldn’t go to the city. I would work in the center inside the camp. The daily work inside the health center was inside the camp. It was near; I could visit home anytime it was necessary. Because my work was not official, it was not that serious for me to be obliged to stay there until evening at three o’clock. I could come back in the meantime, because I was working as a volunteer.

Researcher: You worked as a volunteer the entire seven years?

Fawzya: The entire seven years I worked voluntarily. But the last two years, they said they will give me a salary. My salary did not come, it did not come until we came back to Iraq. Of course, it was assigned but, how can I say it, as there was cheating and as someone who works as the proxy to someone else, s/he will seize the chance and siphon the money like the case of the officials who have this habit, it was so. When we came back they said your salary of one year has arrived. Well, we went and were interviewed to receive the salary. Then, I saw it was a very little sum. They had previously told me how much they allocated to me monthly. Then, I said “this is not it the sum I was told about.” It became somewhat messy and the official said “if you’re not happy, you can return to Iraq.” I said “I’m Iranian; you don’t have the right to tell me to go back. I will sue you and take it out of your eyes. But because I have worked as a volunteer, I didn’t yearn for the money at all but as my right, it was my right and I had to take it completely.” Despite that, they cut half of the salary. Then, it was 20 thousand tomans. The 20 thousand of that time was too much because each thousand toman equaled 10 thousand Iraqi dinar of that time. And one thousand Iraqi Dinar was too much.

Then, they gave the salary for each year altogether, almost three months before we came back to Iraq. The civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan region had just stopped. Rumors about the death of Farida’s father, my husband’s brother and things like that had just spread. Then, my husband’s situation was very bad. It was also not allowed for people to travel to Iraq. They did gave permission for the Islamic party members, they did it for the PUK members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, but Iran was not good with the KDP members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and they were not issued permission to cross the border to Iraq. They didn’t do it; they did not give us permission. We applied two to three times but they didn’t give permission. Then, we had no choice but to return to Iraq. My husband’s situation also was so bad; with no news of his brother. From Kermanshahan, a Kurdish city northeast of Iran, the party official to my husband’s brother, Kak Hyder, called, saying “sister-in-law, return to Iraq. As we have heard your husband is sick. Therefore, go back to Iraq. I’m telling you this for sure that, your husband’s brother, is dead. But because of children, go back to Iraq with your husband.” Then, we had no option. We said “let’s go and register our names.”

Then three months before we returned, I took the salary and shared it with the neighbor. We were sixteen families and registered our names together. There people had a little income. If you worked, you could earn only the price of a humble meal. Out of ten days, one could find work only in one day. The town was small and they did not allow you to go and work in the big cities. See, the same way that now there are Syrian refugee camps and people are all confined to those camps, then it was the same in Iraqi refugees’ camps in Iran. Now, the Syrian refugees are relatively fine but in Iran there was an indefinite number of refugees. By God, there were some families who like us sheltered four families, all of them on their own responsibility and without any funds from the government did this.

Schools, shops, houses, markets, all had refugees in them. In the camps there were so many of them that the Iranian people had got annoyed with the Iraqi refugees. Then they caused lots of troubles; they would do something that embarrassed the entire Iraq. It had become such that you would feel ashamed to say that you were Iraqi, saying to yourself “let no one know that I’m Iraqi.” The Iraqi refugees would do good to them and see what the Iranian hosts would do to them; they would give them such a bad lesson that the poor person would tell it all the time. There are good and bad people anywhere.

Then, the people were in this situation; they were living in this difficulty and hardship. Even if you worked for one day, you had to keep it for ten to fifteen days, because you were certain that until then you would not find any work. You had to survive with that 200 or 300 tomans for that number of days. You could not spend it at your will. Then, when they gave the salary, this was the reason I shared it with our neighbors, with the 16 families and not three of them whose financial situation was good and had grown up boys who would go to work. Instead of having only one person to work for them, they had four to five people to work and that was better. But for those who had little kids, I shared the money with, telling them “You’re forgiven from my side, if you have the money give it back, if you do not have it, you’re forgiven; go and buy clothes for your kids, buy stuff for yourselves. Whatever we bought ourselves, we gave them money so that they also buy stuff they way we did. I asked Ferhad’s father, my husband to give them the money so that they could spend it.

Researcher: Then mother, when you were working there, when all these people were coming, all injured, all sick, what incident you can never forget and is always in your memory? A patient? A woman giving birth?

Fawzya: There were many such cases but not for injured people because the war was not there. Victims of the war would go to the border cities, would go to Sanandaj, to Mariwan. This place of us was farther than the place where there were wounded people. But as for the people in the camp, both the patients and the childbirth, these cases were very, very difficult.

There was a family from Sangaw area near Sulaimaniya. God bless the father of the family. Well, I cannot forget anyone of them. His children were grown up. The old woman, the mother of the family, passed away this year. They had a grown up daughter. She was so passionate; her name was Dilan. She kept saying “if I go back to Iraq, by God, Dada Zahrar I will adorn myself, only if I could go back I would get married.” She was grown up. She was a little bit mentally defected. She was above forties. She was very frail, having too much grief. Their eldest son was gone with Anfal. The wife of this eldest son who had two children was with them. The bigger family had these two physically matured daughters and a son and the other son was lost in Anfal. Haji and his wife had two daughters and two sons.

Well, it did not take long when Dilan became sick and would be taken to this and that place for therapy. It turned out she had laryngeal cancer. Then, she became so sick. Almost three years I nursed her. They could not give her anything to eat themselves, they cooked soups and other things and I gave them to her using a syringe. Our caravans were opposite each other. Then, when she died, God bless her one thousand times, she was only bones. No one dared to wash her. It was also my first time to wash a dead body. Another time, I had washed the corpse with my previous neighbors but alone I had never washed any corpse. For washing a corpse alone, it was my first time. It was really difficult; I couldn’t do it. Besides, it was cold, very cold. There was a lot of snow on the ground. It was not like now for people to have boiler and hot water. You would make a heater and put it under a small barrel or you would put a pot over it and warm up water. It was really difficult. Anyway, I washed it but I said “you prepare the shroud and other things.” The women prepared the shroud and we buried her. I can never forget it. As they say, she was longing, saying “by God, one day I will return to Iraq, I will have a suitor, I will marry. I will wear nice clothes.” Her father and mother were so heart-burned for her.

The late Baji Sukrya was still alive. She was also very old. When she had just reached maturity, her first monthly periods, when she reached the fifth and sixth stage secondary school, her father died. The girl became the eldest child in the family. Her other sisters and brothers were all little. Then she scarified herself. She left schooling for work in a Sulaimaniya cigarette factory. She stayed with her mother and raised all her sisters and brothers, marrying off her sisters and brothers. When there is no sympathy, there is no sympathy. Her sisters and brothers each got busy with their own lives. Who remained? Baji Shukrya and her mother. Sabri had refused all her suitors, saying “until all my sisters and brothers are not settled, I will not also marry. Who will raise them if I get married? I should take care of them. I should become responsible for them, on behalf of both my father and my mother.” The sisters and brothers left and none was fair to say “we are married let’s bring our mother to live with us so that Shukrya can marry for herself.” When Shukrya saw the situation was so, she did not leave her mother. Again she refused all her suitors because of her mother, saying, “until my mother is alive, I will not get married. To whom should I leave my mother? They were so insensible that each one went and left my mother. I won’t leave my mother alone.” Until 1989 she took care of her mother, and then her mother died. The girl remained alone.

Not long after her mother’s death, her eldest brother, who had a truck trafficking goods between Sulaimaniya and Erbil and Mosul and these areas, had an accident and his truck overturned on the way and he died. Six to seven children were left without a father. Again this girl, Shukrya, was pushed by her consciousness, going to become the guardian for her brother’s children. She took care of her brother’s children and his wife until 1991. She got her salary for them and spent it on them. She swore that when she came back from work, so tired and devastated, these children and wife of her brother “did not even serve me the cold food to eat. They would not say to themselves she is coming back from work, bringing her salary and spending it on us.” Sabri said that she would warm up a little bit of the food, drink a tea, saying to herself “it does not matter, my brother is dead, my brother’s children are poor.”

Until 1991 it was so when they fled to Iran, to the Barda Rasha Camp. We also had gone there to that camp. Nozad’s brother, Dana, was with us. They distributed stuff among refugees in the camps. On loudspeakers, they called the people to come and take stuff. Men or children would go and bring the stuff. There was no home stuff. If there you had a pan or a teapot, several families shared them the same pan and teapot. Dana and Ferhad also went to bring stuff. They came back, saying “mum, there was a very wild and rude woman there. She broke through the crowd of men and took all the beautiful and good blankets.” And I said “dears, she is either not mentally well or she has felt so cold, maybe her husband is dead and because of her children, so that they are not cold, she has done this.”

After a week, the weather became good, snow melted. We were sitting in the sun. We had set a fire, warming up water. I washed my mother-in-law, I washed the kids. I warmed up water to wash clothes when I saw this Baji Shukrya wandering around in an Arabic Dishdasha, the Arabic traditional cloth. The children said “mum, this is the big rude woman whom we talked about the other day, the one who took the blankets.” I said “dears, it’s a pity that you’re saying this about her, from her appearance, it’s clear that she’s not mentally well.” Then, she was fat, her hair was completely white, she had a hair cut short like men. She was in mood for nothing. If someone did not give her anything to eat, she didn’t have the mood to make it herself. For taking bath, it was once in two to three months if the neighbors warmed up water for her and helped to wash her. She would say “I have washed my hands of everything.”

She came in the sun and said hello, asking “dear mother, is there any room available.” Then there was a hall, with four rooms in it. In each room there was a family. I answered “yes, there is one.” And the kids were saying “mum don’t, she is rude.” I said “dears, she is pitiful.” I asked the room was for whom. She said “well, it’s for me. I’m alone in a hall. I’m so scared. Please, if in your hall there is a family, let me come. Let me come.” And I said “sister, why you’re alone.” She started to cry. She sat by the fire, saying, “I will narrate my life to you so that you give me a place.” I felt so sorry for her. She said the story I just told you. She said “now every day I went everywhere begging for my brother’s children, until I collected a lot of money for them. I went to the villages, bringing things for them. But when I came back, I saw they were gone, leaving me behind. They had gone with all the money and things.”

I felt so sorry for her, asking Ferhad’s father, my husband, “what can we do for her?” He said “what can we do. Let’s give her this room. We gave her a room, saying “dada because your case is like that and you’re alone come here.” Well, Baji Shukrya said, “may God reward you, I can’t do this alone send your children with me, I have some blankets and worn out stuff I will bring with myself.”Ferhad, Kawe and Yousef went and brought the stuff and she came. Since then Baji Shukrya was with us, whatever we cooked she was with us for eating until we came back to Iraq. When we came back to Iraq, she was so sad, saying “don’t go to Iraq, wherever you go, I’ll accompany you, but let me die in this homelessness but not come back to Iraq. I will not turn my face to Iraq because of my brother’s children and wife. I had such a pain for them but they were unfaithful.” But we were in a bad situation and came back. She lived one year after we returned and died. Her grave is in Deh Golan, there in Iran.