I fled Iraq in 2006

Because my husband was threatened with death. He was a Shi’a Muslim and worked for “the enemy” since 2004, an American company. But my husband refused to quit his job. It was wartime after all, finding another job would not have been easy.

Suddenly, in March 2006, an attack was targeted at him. He supposedly had a severe car accident. It turned out to be the work of fundamentalist Muslims. Luckily he survived the attack, but we realised that we really couldn’t stay in Iraq any longer. It was becoming far too dangerous. It was a matter of time before things would really end badly.

We got married as soon as he was released from the hospital, and within a week had arranged all the paperwork necessary for our immediate departure. My family thought it was awful that we had to flee in such a hurry. Saddened, my parents stayed behind with my sister and one of my brothers.

We left by car to the Jordanian border. It was highly dangerous to travel by car, but we did not have the money for a flight. We were held at the border for five hours, not allowed to continue. We told them that my husband’s life was threatened, but they did not care. They ultimately let us go, on the condition that we would return to Iraq in a month.

Our first baby was born while we were in hiding

After that month in Jordan, we were supposed to apply for a new visa, but we didn’t. We feared being denied a visa and being sent back to Iraq. From this moment onwards, we were in Jordan illegally. I was so mad during that time. I used to have everything: a nice husband, lovely family, friends. And now I suddenly saw lots of horrible things happen before my eyes! No one wants you. I couldn’t believe this was happening to us.

We sought shelter at my uncle’s home in Jordan. It was very dangerous for us to hide there, not in the least for him. We were terrified of someone finding out about us and reporting us. There, at my uncle’s place, our first child was born. Our daughter.

In the Netherlands My husband was the first to go to the Netherlands, with my daughter. Upon arrival, he lived in an asylum centre with my daughter.

My daughter didn’t know who I was anymore

I stayed behind in Jordan, and joined them in the Netherlands 9 months later. I had not seen my daughter during all that time. She did not remember who I was when I saw her. She didn’t want me to hold her or pick her up, I had become a stranger to her.

All I wanted was to build a new life here. To just be, among the Dutch. But it was only once I got to the asylum centre we ended up in that I truly realised what had happened. I felt awful. I spent entire days just crying, for my parents, for my country, my house, all that I had left behind. And even though I was safe now, I was still scared. That fear stays with you for a very long time.

I removed my hijab to get in more contact with the people around me

After a while, we got offered a house in Hoofddorp. No one really spoke to us when we moved there. The fact that I wore a hijab wasn’t helping. That’s why I took it off, to get more of a connection with the people in my area. In Iraq it’s compulsory to wear a hijab, here you have the freedom to choose not to. So then I don’t want to, even though I’m still a Muslim.

And now I am very happy here. And by now I have many nice contacts here! Although I would really like to get back to work. I am an accountant by occupation; that is what I studied for. I currently spend a lot of time applying to jobs, but to no avail. So if anyone is looking for an accountant, I hereby offer my services!