Dunia (Iraq)

This is the story of a young girl from a well off Orthodox Christian background from Bagdad. She tells how she had to flee her home and live with Kurds in the mountains under hash conditions before being allowed to come to Australia to live with her cousin. Story from Stories from a Troubled Homeland (written by students at Randwick Girls’ High School, Sydney)

I didn’t want to come to school today because the memories of things that happened are so painful but the people at home encouraged me and said this story should be told. So that people would know. I hope you will think sometimes of the people still in troubled countries. I cry every day for my family who are still there. I was about 12 when it happened. I was living in Shekan. My family and I had been thrown out of our home in Bagdad and we were forced to live in a house without glass in the windows (we put plastic bags over them) and the floor was sand. There was no electricity or water. It wasn’t what we had been used to in Bagdad. Our house there was big, modern and comfortable.

In my house three or four families of my relatives were living. We ate food from the small plot of land my father farmed. My parents still live there now with some of my brothers and sisters. I don’t know why Sadam Hussein hates the Kurdish people, who are Muslims like him. My family are Orthodox Christians and he doesn’t like us either. The Kurdish people were very good to us and other Orthodox Christians were living with them too.

About a year after we went there a terrible thing happened. My Mother and I were cooking bread in the garden on a thing similar to a BBQ. I saw a bomb shoot past and land about a kilometre away. My Father ran up to the top of the house to see what happened. Everyone was very worried.

My Father told us to leave immediately. We couldn’t take anything with us. We all ran into the mountains and spent about a week without food. There were lots of people there with us. We could not find our relatives or friends. I was very scared, hungry and tired from walking. I didn’t understand why Sadam Hussein was bombing us but later I found out that he was trying to kill all the Kurds because they wanted independence and their own country to live in.

After about a week, helicopters from the United Nations dropped food, clothing and tents for us. I saw lots of dead bodies but no one could bury them because they were too scared of the army. When the bombing stopped we returned to our village. We lived there for another year. The school in the village had been bombed and so we couldn’t continue our education. There were no books or equipment and of course there were no buildings. So my father decided that we had to leave this place so that I could return to school.

We faced many difficulties and sometimes had to pretend to be people we weren’t. But eventually we made our way to Jordan and from there my father was able to contact my cousin in Australia. After many months of letters and phone calls, the Australian government allowed me to come to Australia to live with my cousin.
I miss my family but I am grateful to them and to my cousin that I am able to be here, to live peacefully and to study.

Atoosa (Iran)

This is the story of a young Iranian girl who experienced the war between Iran and Iraq. She recounts the horror of bombings. This story originally appeared in the publication ‘Stories from a Troubled Homeland’ written by students at Randwick Girls High School, Sydney.

“I'm sixteen years old. I was born in Iran on 18 August 1985 during the war between Iran and Iraq, which went on for more than eight years.

The war started on 20 September 1980. It started from the west and continued to the east. Some people say this war was started because of one of Iran’s states named Khoram Shahr, which is rich in oil. The Iraqi government said that ‘this state belongs to Iraq’. Obviously, the Iranian government disagreed with them and they started a war.

These eight years were the hardest years for every one. Teenage boys went to war and lost their lives. Schools, hospitals and people’s homes were blown up by nine-metre bombs. The only hospital in the suburb that I lived in was blown up with its doctors and about 20 patients. One of the schools in the same suburb got bombed as well and more than 200 students, as well as the teachers, lost their lives. When our area was bombed some of our neighbours lost their lives and houses. As for my family, my father was in the Iranian army so he knew about all safety measures. As they taught him about these, he came home and taught us.

My father made a shelter for us under the ground. He left us some water and bread. He worked in an international oil refinery company, which was the main target for the Iraqi government to drop their bombs on. He lost seven of his best friends who were like brothers to him. They died next to him and in front of his eyes. His closest friend, who had three young children, had a heart attack because of the sound of the bombs.

My father saw another one of his friends who tried to run to the shelter but Iraqi planes dropped a bomb before he could get to the shelter and a metal piece from the bomb cut his body in half. Another one of his friends was the champion of volleyball. Whey they were working with their other two friends, Iraqi planes dropped a bomb. Everybody lay down. When they got up he wasn’t there, so they went to look for him. They found him meters away. One of his legs had been cut off and the other one was almost severed. They took him to a hospital and they cut the other leg off.

After a few years my father sent us (my mother, brother, two sisters and I) to the north of Iran to my uncle’s house. We went to the north because there were mountains so planes couldn’t go there because they could have crashed into them. After a month we came back to my city Esfahan. During this time my father had a big cut on his right arm.

The Iraqi government were cold-blooded people. They used a chemical bomb on one of Iran’s cities named Halabcheh. This bomb killed more than 10,000 innocent people. This war led to nothing except the loss of thousands of innocent people and Khoram Shahr stayed as one of Iran’s states. Lots of young children lost a parent or both of their parents and lots of parents lost their teenage or elder sons. I had a friend who had only two brothers and she lost both of them in this war. Even now some families are looking for their loved ones. They are either dead or they are prisoners of war.

After a few years when Iraq had a war with the United States, the Iranian government asked people to help the people in Iraq by donating some money, clothes or food (canned or dried) and some people actually helped them. The people of Iran could forgive the people of Iraq because it was the Iraqi government that had caused the war, not the ordinary people.”

Ali (Afghanistan)

This story tells of the experiences of a young Afghan man who was tortured by the Taliban, how his mother arranged to have him escape from Afghanistan and of his journey to Australia as an asylum seeker. This story originally appeared in ‘The Truth Hurts – Facts and Stories about “Boat People” and Asylum Seekers’, The Centre for Refugee Research, University of New South Wales.

I was born in a village in central Afghanistan. I lived there with my father, my mother and my older brother. I had two married sisters who also lived in the village with their husbands and children. I am of the Hazara tribe and all the other people in our village were Hazara. The Taliban who ran the government did not like the Hazara people. My father was headman of our village and had a good shop at the front of our house. My brother worked with him. My father also owned some land outside the village that he rented to a farmer.

I worked for my uncle selling things like combs and jewellery to the women door to door.

One day when I was seventeen a group of Taliban armed with guns arrived in our village in their trucks to take the young men away to join their army. My father and some of the older men tried to defend our village with the weapons they had. They did not want the Taliban to take the young men away. My brave father was shot and killed in the main street. My older brother fled and we did not hear from him. I don’t know where he is.

The Taliban took all the young men including me in their trucks to an old fort outside the village. They told us that unless we joined their army they would beat us. The Taliban had just killed my father – I refused to join their army. So they beat me and kicked me and humiliated me and kept me in the fort. I don’t know how long I was there.

When the Taliban left our village I was very sick for a long time and my mother and sisters had to look after me. My mother decided to sell our farmland and her jewellery and get me out of Afghanistan.

She somehow arranged for me to go with a man to a country north of Afghanistan by truck. I don’t remember much about this journey, as I was still sick. From that country he arranged for me to fly to Indonesia and then take a fishing boat to Australia.

I was in a Detention Centre for many months and then I was granted a Temporary Protection Visa.