Scars and Resilience: An Iraqi Family's Story

A child psychologist working with Iraqi immigrants describes the regime's most vulnerable victims.

As a psychologist working with abused and learning disabled kids in the U.S. public school system, I've seen and heard some troubling things, but rarely something to compare to this story. For the last four months, I've been working with three Iraqi children who were imprisoned for 8 months in Basra, a city in southern Iraq. What I've learned about their families is a window into the horror of Saddam Hussein's regime.



The children's father, who was anti-Saddam, had been arrested and jailed. Ultimately he escaped and fled to Jordan. In retaliation, the regime imprisoned my little friends, their mother, and their uncle. After eight months of torturing the uncle for information, they brought the whole family into one cell. At gunpoint, they forced the uncle to rape the mother--ruining her in the eyes of Islam--and then shot the uncle in the head. All of this in front of the kids.



The mother and the children were subsequently released. Some relatives helped them flee the country and reunite with with their father in Jordan last summer. A refugee agency assisted them in getting to the U.S. The kids showed up in my school last fall, not speaking a word of English. We didn't really know their story until a psychiatrist working with the family contacted me, as the school psychologist, and asked me to try and work with the kids.

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Their mother has not spoken a word since the incident in the jail. She does not look at or touch the children. The doctors describe her as still in shock and clinically depressed.

I bought an Arabic/English dictionary with pictures and have been having a great time working with these darling kids. They're smart and funny and incredibly resilient.

Needless to say, the father and the kids are happy beyond words about the recent events in Iraq. They hope one day to return to their homeland.

I don't care about the oil or the "weapons of mass destruction." I'm just grateful to our troops and so glad we rescued those people.

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Dr. Angela Wall
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