Border lives: Zharawa- Lost
From Zharawa: displaced people
“Razgai Village had more than 400 cows. Some died in attacks. The rest we sold very cheap. ” “We can’t go back to harvest and we lost our products.” “We could not have animals because someone owned the land (Prde Hazwa camp). In a short time everyone sold [their] animals at cheap prices. Many animals were left to predators in the villages.” “ Farm was burned, animals were lost.” “Some people moved back because they have no choice. They depend on animals but they put their lives at risk.”
The attacks from Turkey and Iran have caused substantial losses for the villagers. They cannot harvest their products because of the bombings and shellings during harvest time. Their farms and orchards were either burned or dried out because the irrigation system was destroyed. Many of the villagers also had to abandon their cows and sheep in the mountains. Mr. Soran from Shnawa village told us that he didn’t know how many animals his family has lost: the sheep might be lost, or attacked by wild animals or killed by the Iranian shelling.
Although the IDPs receive material aid from charity groups, they still risk their lives to go home to check on their animals. Ms. Amira told CPT that men usually stayed in the cave while the other family members were sheltered in Pdre Hazwa.
Villagers also sold many animals when they found shelter in the camps, as neither Prde Hazwa nor the UNHCR camp allowed them to bring their animals with them. Many villagers told CPT they had sold their animals at a substantial loss because they had no place for grazing and because of their pressing need for sustenance. The village people have not merely relied upon material aid from charity groups. They have spent the money they saved from the past, and in many cases, sold their animals, which for them, means that they have liquidated all of their assets in order to survive.
For aiding the victims of Turkish and Iranian bombing, the Iraqi government had budgeted each family 1,000,000ID ($847USD) in 2008. But every family in Zharawa only received 450,000 ID ($381USD) in November. The rest of the money disappeared into the bureaucratic system. The financial help from their government has not been enough, in light of what they have lost and continue to lose.
Physical and Psychological IDP Effects
Shifting from the mountains to town, from a creek to a barren land, has taken its toll. Government agency visits and material aid from charity groups do not prevent people from suffering physical and psychological damage.
"It’s so hot.”. . . “We cannot eat or sleep because of the heat.". . . “There is no clean water.”. . . “We are scared that we will get sick." Ms. Amira, the camp nurse, reported that many of the children had gotten sick with intestinal illnesses.
Mr. Jalal, who teaches Arabic, said that because of the hardships and stopping and starting their schooling, the children will be stunted emotionally as well as academically.
“UNHCR had a policy of 'less eligibility', to ensure that IDPs would not stay longer than necessary.”
“There are many people sick because of heat, dust, and unclean water; [there are] many types of illness and insects. We have to buy clean water for children. Many adults get sick by drinking from [the] creek. Water is a big issue now. The water system built by ICRC is not working because the spring is dried out.”
But moving into a newly built UN camp did not solve the problems and thus did not alleviate the fear and stress of the villagers.
People were still worried about no clean water, no electricity, no shade, and not enough tents. Many families cannot afford the cost of being sick.
Comparing the two locations, CPT concluded that living conditions in the UN camp are even more difficult than at the first camp at Prde Hazwa. The sad irony is that conditions for the villagers are deteriorating, rather than improving, with international intervention.
On the psychological side, the struggle to maintain dignity and the loss of self- sustainability have led to feelings of disappointment. The IDPs were self-sustaining people before but have had to watch themselves lose that ability.
"We used to be busy—helping our parents and going to school… Girls and boys did the same work—at home and at school…but now, there is nothing to do."
“The life was nice, beautiful. There were water and electricity. We had farm and sheep. We were able to support ourselves. … My family is not doing anything now. We are living off money from selling animals.”
In 2008, with every visit, CPT found that the villagers struggled to show their best to their guests. When CPT began visiting during the hot summer, the hospitality of iced water and hot tea and sugar were always extended by the villagers, who, in 2008 would apologize for not being able to invite visiting CPTers to lunch. Then in the summer of 2009, the villagers would apologize for not being able to even offer clean cold water.
During one visit in 2009, the ICRC arrived with food rations. Most people hurried from their tents to pick up their rations, but one man stayed in the tent to continue the conversation and said, “What you are seeing is not who we once were. We had a life of dignity. Now we run for handouts to survive.”
This comment was echoed by many villagers: they used to have gardens, orchards, animals, clean water, electricity, and nice rugs in their villages. They were proud to have rebuilt their villages with their own hands after 1991.
One time, after staying in Prde Hazwa for eight months, one old woman came out from a tent and greeted CPT. The woman felt shame because she was not in her home and thus was unable to adorn herself with her best clothing and to prepare a feast for her guests, as she could do from her own home; now she had nothing to offer.
Mr. Dahfer also shared his concerns about the older people, “ . . . many of the older people are in psychological despair . . . people compare past and now, living under these pressures. It is bad for [their] health.”
We saw people sitting in tents, watching the barren land around them. This was not their home. They could do nothing. They were not the same confident and joyful people who marched home and rebuilt their villages in Saddam’s time.