Invisible lives: Hazna Muhammed

“They were forcing boys to go into the army. Anybody over 15 was being forced to join the army. So we walked to the Iraq border and then took a bus. It was two to three hours walking, then five to six hours from the border. In Syria I wasn’t working. I was at home – a mother for the children. My husband was working as a labourer but if there was no work we had a garden to grow food.

“Everything’s difficult for women wanting to work here. Especially because most things are missing or are very expensive. But women are forced to work and support their husband and keep their family.

“We opened a shop in the first year after we arrived. My husband’s brother gave me money and credit to open the shop. Three years later I’m still waiting to pay them back [a debt of 475 IRD ($400)]. I don’t know when we’ll be able to pay off the debt. The money we earn is not enough to live off. Clothes and shoes are expensive, especially in the winter. Everything is expensive.

“From morning till midnight I’m here, standing. It’s difficult for me. It’s affecting me, and my children. I would like to work in any other job – perhaps in Erbil in an office or restaurant or with another organisation, to be a cleaner and have a great salary.

“I have children so I cannot leave them. I can’t leave the house or the camp. There are problems. We don’t know what will happen. The first thing we are afraid of is our children leaving the camp. We don’t know where they are going. We worry that once they go out they can’t come back. It’s difficult.

“Our hope is to go back to Syria. Once we came to Kurdistan we thought that we would stay here for two to three months but it’s now been three years. In Syria we were free. Here there’s no freedom. We can’t easily go out or come back in so we just spend our days in the camp.

“The children haven’t been outside the camp. In Syria every two to three weeks we were going out and we had holidays. Here, I’m working for long hours just to make my children not need any help from others.

“In Syria we used to go to the garden and to playgrounds. The children would play and I was happy. But here, we don’t have anything. This is the only thing I can do with them. Of course it affects my relationship with others but I have one aim: to not let my children need help from others. For that reason I come here and stay here till night.”

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