Gilya*

"I try to provide everything for my family, as much as I can."

I’m from North Shingal. My life was good before I got married. I had a rich family, we wore nice clothes. It was a good life. We had a big family. I had nine sisters and five brothers, I was the oldest, so I took care of the other kids.

I got married when I was 18 years old. In my culture, if you’re in love, a man can kidnap you [without the father’s approval]. But my father told my sisters and I ‘If any of you loves someone and he kidnaps you, I will not accept that, and you will not be welcomed back to the family.’ But I was already in a relationship with someone for two years. We decided to get married anyway.

My father got angry and decided he wanted to kill me because he was not happy about this. The people close to our family went to my father and tried to tell him to approve of our marriage, but my father said he wouldn’t accept that, and said he wouldn’t speak to me again. I’m rejected. I’m not able to come back to my family again. 

After that, I had my own life. God gave me kids and my life was normal. I have four children – three boys and one girl. 

In 2014, I was with my husband and kids when we heard ISIS was coming to our village. Everyone ran away. My husband said he would stay to protect our home, and I should run with the kids to save them.

Since that day, I haven’t heard anything from my husband. 

We first went to Syria [but it wasn’t safe], so we came back to Kurdistan. I didn’t have any relatives, I came with strangers. I had no one. Only my kids.

I decided to leave the country with my children [to see if things were better], so we went to Turkey.  We got very tired there, we were thirsty. There was no water to drink and we had no food. My youngest daughter was crying a lot. I didn’t have money, I didn’t have a salary, so I said we will have to go back to Iraq.

When we arrived at the border, we had no passports so they turned us away. I tried four times to leave Turkey – twice the police took us at checkpoints as we were crossing by land. The other times, we attempted cross by water, but the police took us when we were in the boat.

When we tried to flee by boat the second time, people told us we shouldn’t go – the weather was about to change; the winter storms were coming. But we had to go. I thought if we left it would be better, because my children are suffering.

It was midnight. In the first thirty minutes, the weather changed, and the storm came. The motor of the boat stopped working and we didn’t know what was happening as couldn’t speak [the smuggler’s] language, he was from Afghanistan. A big ship came and took us from the small boat to save our lives. Then the police arrested us. 

To be honest, it’s very hard to share my story.

It can still make me feel sad, it makes me feel angry and worried about what’s going to happen next.

But I’m responsible for my family, for my children. I can [do it] alone, I don’t care what [people] say. I will try to provide everything for my family, as much as I can.

I come to the GROW program to listen to Tutapona and put everything they teach in my mind. I feel good and when I’m here [with Tutapona] it makes me forget what’s going to happen in my life.

-Gilya*

*Names have been changed to protect the individual.and her family

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