July 5, 2008
Over the past two years, here in Amman, Jordan, I’ve regularly visited the family of Umm Hamdi, an Iraqi woman forced out of her native Iraq four years ago by terrifying death threats after her husband, very likely prey to that same threatened violence, disappeared. Although often met with the proverbial “cold shoulder” when trying to improve conditions for her family, she persists,—in the daytime she does child care for another family and, in the evening, she knits, sews, and makes handicrafts to sell in a local market. Umm Hamdi is tough, strong and fiercely determined to provide for her children. Nevertheless, she’s wretchedly insecure as a single mother and one more refugee among thousands in a country where resources to cope with her anxious needs are very slim. And she is worried for her son who is still in Iraq.
Two nights ago, I turned up to her small bare apartment during an evening when her young daughters were out in the care of a local charity and she was home alone. I saw how worn out she was from working to support them - but more telling on her is the frustration and remorse she feels for Hamdi, her teenage son, who is barred from entering Jordan because he is a young man over 15 years of age, and whether for fear of spillover violence or from a wish to concentrate its taxed charitable resources among women and children, Jordan’s policy strictly bars him entry. In Iraq, Hamdi lives with a family that resents him for his unemployed status, (there are no jobs), and can barely spare the little support they offer him.