(Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri; photo credit: Marc Perelman)
The Forward correspondent Marc Perelman has a moving and important profile in Salon of Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri who is now an Iraqi refugee in Syria.
A short clip from a piece that should be read in full:
Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri, a 42-year-old mother of three, belongs to another category of imperiled citizens-turned-refugees whom no one seems to care about. She is among thousands of Iraqis who have worked in seemingly less exposed positions for the U.S. and Iraqi authorities, carrying out administrative tasks, rendering basic services or, as in Ahlam’s case, doling out crucial humanitarian aid to the people of her country.
But even delivering help to the poor, the handicapped and the displaced did not spare Ahlam from being labeled a traitor by some of her fellow Sunnis. In the past two years, Ahlam has been kidnapped and tortured, was forced to flee Iraq, and lost one of her teenage sons under dubious circumstances. Although she was officially recognized for her exemplary humanitarian work by the U.S. Army more than two years ago, U.S. authorities have done little to help her, and her struggle to find safe haven continues today.
Ahlam’s ordeal casts light on the depth of the resentment among Iraqis in general, and Sunnis in particular, over the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the resulting sectarian conflict that has engulfed their country in the past two years. The fact that a respected aid worker like Ahlam has faced brutal reprisal speaks volumes about the fractured state of Iraqi society.
Nowadays, Ahlam lives with her family in a drab three-story building off “Iraqi Street,” the new name of the main thoroughfare of Said Azainab, a destitute neighborhood of Damascus overflowing with tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees. This capital city has lured the vast majority of the more than 1.2 million Iraqis who have fled to Syria.”
America could be doing much more than it is to help broker a final peace between Israel an Syria — and the fact that Syria is hosting a flow of refugees into its country and not receiving major international assistance is something the U.S. ought to take notice of.
More soon. I’m flying from St. George, Utah today to New York.
— Steve Clemons