Collateral Repair Project is home to a diverse community of urban refugees who practice a wide variety of faiths. Regardless of any individual’s religious beliefs or ethnic background, all people in need are welcome to attend our programs. One such beneficiary who found a home at CRP is Yasmin. She is a member of the Mandaean community, a small ethnoreligious group with origins in Iran and Iraq with about 60,000 members. Below, Yasmin describes her life in Jordan and her experiences with CRP as the E-Learning Program Coordinator, English as a Foreign Language Intern, and a popular English teacher.
“I was born in Basra, South Iraq. I’m from the Mandaean minority who live between Iraq/Iran. Because our religion is different we have been persecuted throughout history; when I was growing up in Iraq, I had to wear a hijab and act like a Muslim woman which was so uncomfortable for me because it’s not my faith. Even dressed as a Muslim woman, I was constantly harassed by men, even policemen – there was no safety in Iraq, no law. I saw explosions, people die, so many horrible things – nothing was safe there.
In 2016 some men we didn’t know came to our house and shot at us, telling us to leave. We were scared and ran to our relative’s house and hid there for a year – I left school, and so did my brothers. After a year we decided to leave Iraq because it was no longer a safe place to live. We flew to Jordan – it was really strange at first, because we knew nothing about Jordan, except that it was a Muslim country and spoke Arabic. After 2 months we enrolled in school and started that September. We mostly learned about Jordan – the culture, the accent – from school. It was tough at first because I’d been out of a school a year so I was behind, and I couldn’t pass the first year. The second year I worked really hard to catch up and finish Tawjeehee (senior year). Luckily we knew some people from our city who lived in Jordan and they helped us settle here and told us about CRP. We started at CRP as students, mainly to practise our English!
CRP has helped us a lot – we don’t really have anything to do in Amman since we can’t work and don’t want to enrol in college in case we are resettled (it would be a lot of money to invest in a degree we might never complete). Having structure and routine from CRP was important to me; my English improved a lot, and one night Megan Whatsapp messaged me asking me to become a co-teacher! So I volunteered for a semester, translating between Arabic and English and gaining teaching experience. I founded a reading club, too, as part of the TEFL program at CRP. In time, CRP asked me to become an intern and a coordinator for the E-Learning program here. It’s great! I love teaching. I thought it would be annoying at first, but I discovered I love helping other people – it helps me. I love sharing knowledge and I know now I’d like to teach forever. CRP is honestly a blessing. As we say in Iraq: CRP is a heart for me (it’s crucial – I need it to survive). It’s a place I can go every day, something to wake up for because I feel excited about my work every day and the community I interact with, all the people I have to help. All the staff who work here are so supportive, too, it’s like a family.
Unfortunately, outside of CRP, life in Jordan is tough. We came here with savings and, after 4 years, they are nearly all used up. My mother doesn’t like to worry about this: she says ‘today we will eat, and tomorrow I don’t know!’ – she means to live in the present and not get stressed about the future. But I know we have sold our dreams just to pay rent. We live in Hashemi and are using our life savings just to survive; people here often thing Iraqis are oil-rich, too, so they overcharge us. At the moment, my father is still in Iraq, working in his shop (which was previously robbed). He stays there so he can send us money – it’s so dangerous and hard to have been apart from him for so long.
We hope to be resettled. I hope freedom lasts here in Jordan but it’s hard to know if the Middle East will ever be safe for us. I don’t want to live in an Arab country anymore, not after having to leave Iraq. I’ve already left my home, I want to start over somewhere completely different. My family and I applied to Australia 5 times, and France once. We’ve always been rejected despite our case ticking all the right boxes. We’ve been in Jordan 4 years now. I’ve put my life on hold here and I don’t want to waste my youth or my life! It is frustrating. But thankfully, I have CRP!”
Yasmin’s journey provides an insight into the reality of refugees living in Amman. She has been a great asset to our work engaging with the community and is now a special part of the team here at CRP.