I’m convinced that our work must always have one foot placed in nonviolent resistance to the forces that design and wage wars, with the other foot standing among people who bear the physical and mental affliction caused by these forces. Today, I’m thinking especially about two young women who found themselves in nightmare circumstances because, in their view, they simply wanted to have a job.
When American troops invaded
Two months later, that had already ended. The company told her and her neighbor to take at least three weeks off due to increasing violence, at the end of which, Noor returned to work while the neighbor who got her the job declined to. She had a fifteen-minute taxi ride to work. One morning, after waking at 6, preparing breakfast for her aunt, saying her morning prayers, and going out to the spot where she would catch her morning taxi, she was approached on the street and shot twice in the face with a gun. It was the last thing she will ever see: she awoke in a hospital with no left eye and no vision in her right.
Even after she left her aunt’s home to avert more revenge attacks, her aunt would be threatened by men who came to ask where Noor was, was she still alive. The aunt had had to pack up all her belongings and flee the neighborhood where she’d lived so many years. Noor feels great sadness, remembering this suffering, on her account, of her aunt, who has since died. Now, in
Nadra (not her name) had graduated from college like Noor, in the years before the
She has been here eight months. She would like to find work, but lacking permanent residency status here, she would risk arrest and deportation if caught working. It’s very difficult for her to meet monthly expenses. What’s more, she spends too much time alone and often feels severe anxiety. “I’m exhausted by my memories,” says Nadra, eyes downcast. “But, I can’t forget.”
Already completely dependent on charity in a foreign country, these young Iraqi women refugees wonder if there can be a future for them in the
At least 750,000 Iraqis have fled to
Will Noor and Nadra be lost in the crowd? Some think that, as former U.S.-paid translators and security workers, they may have a chance for rescue if Congress, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies deem them harmless enough to become naturalized Americans. But having paid such a dreadful price for those jobs, it is cruel to suggest that they enjoy some sort of advantage over the hundreds of thousands of others who also fled
At one point the Danish government sent a rescue team to
But now is not the time for resettlement of Iraqis in
We Americans already enjoy the tremendous advantage Noor and Nadra seek – we can speak freely, with no real threat to our personal safety. It is now time for us to speak for displaced Iraqis and admit to our responsibility for their plight. We caused this war. Simply by paying our taxes, by not resisting, by not using our tremendous resources to make our democratic country behave democratically, we caused it. We can blame Noor’s and Nadra’s attackers – but can anyone think of a war that didn’t create spiraling revenge and retaliation? Some argue we’re not 100% responsible for this aftermath. Is it 90%? Are we 80%? 70%? What percent of Noor’s blindness, of Nadra’s status as the mark of death on any family who houses her – what percent of that can we be comfortable with?
We must end this war. We can’t just blame it on Bush, as though he will somehow turn around and suddenly become a responsible leader. We must hold accountable those who bear responsibility in the Senate and the House of Representatives and insist that they stop funding the war and instead fund and facilitate relocation and a decent life and livelihood for those displaced by our war.
In the last account, Noor and Nadra were punished for trying to get to work.
“GET A JOB?!” If ever you hear this taunt, signal agreement. Yes, it’s time we got to work. And we have to get to work every day.
Kathy Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) which is organizing “The Occupation Project.” a campaign of nonviolent resistance to