Christmas for Refugees in Iraq

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December 22, 2014
Dohuk, Iraq

Iraqi Christian refugees put up a huge Christmas tree outside of the Chaldean Cultural Centre in Dohuk. The tree is the biggest in the region and is made of astro-turf wrapped around a metal frame, materials supplied by Afram, an engineer and owner of the centre, which is now housing 87 Christian refugee families.

Inside the centre, Salma is putting up Christmas decorations. She and her husband fled Tel Isqof, in northern Iraq, to escape ISIS and now live with other refugees in Dohuk. Their sons both fled the country.

Farouk and George, a former employee at Basra airport and a former employee at the oil plant in Kirkuk, respectively, wish to leave Iraq for a more stable life.

Transcription:

Farouk, Christian refugee, (Man, Arabic):

(00:36-00:58) Farouk: "This is a Christmas tree for the Chaldean Cultural Centre. All the people here participated in the making of it."

Interviewer: How did you make it?

Farouk: "We cover it with a carpet and then we decorate it with Christmas lights and Christmas decorations."

(01:03-01:47) Farouk: "This is the work of Mr. Afram. He allowed us to reside here, we were 87 families."

Interviewer: Is this the only tree that you are making?

Farouk: "No, we have another tree inside and a grotto."

Interviewer: What do you hope for this Christmas?

Farouk: "We hope for peace, and to leave this country, because nobody is giving us our rights."

Interviewer: Why are you making this tree?

Farouk: "It is a holiday, we have to make it."

George, Christian refugee, (Man, Arabic):

(01:59-02:15) George: "Even if our situation is hard, it will become easier, nothing stays the same. Life is a chance, to see the good and to see the bad. and hopefully God will fix things, and make it better for us. We are refugees, and we hope our situation will improve."

(02:21-02:31) George: "We build the christmas tree every year. No matter what happens, we build it every year."

Interviewer: The fact that you are refugees did not affect you negatively?

George: "No, nothing can affect us."

(02:38-02:52) George: "We hope to return to Kirkuk, to work and continue to live our lives. We do not care about ISIS or anyone."

Salma, Christian refugee (Woman, Arabic):

(04:02-04:16) Salma: "I am decorating the tree. The Christmas tree."

Interviewer: Why are you decorating it?

Salma: "Because it is a religious holiday that we celebrate every year and decorate the tree."

(04:24-05:22) Salma: "I remember when we used to be in our village, and celebrate this holiday with the family, friends, and relatives."

Interviewer: What did you used to do at Christmas time back when you were in your village?

Salma: "We used to celebrate, prepare food and sweets for the holiday when all the family gathers."

Interviewer: What is your current situation here?

Salma: "We are living in a tragedy. It is not nice to live here for any of the people in this building. But thanks to Mr. Afram, who allowed us to stay here, we are so much better than others."

(05:27-05:42) Salma: "If they cannot find a solution they should allow mass immigration. I am here alone with my husband. All of my children are out of the country, Why should my husband and I stay here?"

(05:47-06:37) Salma: Are we Christian or citizens of this country? We ask God to fix this situation."

Interviewer: Is it necessary to build the tree?

Salma: "Yes absolutely, the tree should be placed and decorated at the beginning of December, to start preparing for the holiday. This tree is a blessing from God, maybe it will bless us so the situation can be fixed and we can return to our homes. Many people do not want to immigrate. This is our country and it is very important to us, when we think of what happened to our country we feel sad, but what can we do?"