Even One Woman Displaced is Too Many!

Friday, September 27th, 2013

An Asylum Seeker Women living in a community

Qamariah as-Sabiha was born as a daughter to a minority clan. She grew up in a small village in the Ethiopian highlands. The majority populations in this region are of Somali decent. When she was 15 years old, she fled to Kenya in order to escape rape and murder threatening women in her area. Qamariah’s father and her brothers were killed in a shooting tragedy before her flight, she had to watch them die, unable to help. Her mother was arrested and put in jail. Qamariah never heard again from her and fears she will never meet her again.

All of my neighbors, especially the women, suffered physically. They were raped. The men were shot and killed. Ordinary people get no protection at all,” Qamariah said remembering why she left her country.

Conflict and violence in the area led to suffering and death of many civilians. The civilians, both men and women, often became victims for no obvious reasons. Often unwarranted accusations about political activities can lead to death. Women and children receive no protection and are vulnerable to the threat of maltreatment and rape.

One day, the gunmen came to my house. They accused my father of being involved in a political activity. My father explained that he was not involved in any political activities. They did not believe him and shot him in front of my mum and us children. My brothers tried to help and protect him, but the gunmen immediately shot them as well. At once, all of them died,” remembers Qamariah.

After her arrival in Kenya, Qamariah worked for a year washing dishes in a restaurant. This job allowed her to get food and a place to stay. She stopped working when the restaurant owner decided to move the restaurant to another city. Then she worked for two years as a housekeeper at a Somali family who has a citizenship of one country in Europe, which lived in Kenya for a while. During her stay with this family Qamariah earned some money and was able to indirectly learn from her employer’s children who went to school. “Because I cannot go to school as they do, I always ask them the lessons they learn at school every day. I learn from them,” said Qamariah.

Qamariah was lucky to be employed in a nice family that also helped her to claim asylum at the local UNHCR office. “I was interviewed by the UNHCR for the first time. Six months after the interview, UNHCR invited me to come to the office, but I could not go because I was very ill,” she continued.

At the time her employer’s family had to move back to Europe they prepared travel documents for Qamariah to be able to follow them to Europe. A travel agent was entrusted with the documents and the payments were made but instead of to Europe Qamariah was brought to Malaysia and then to Indonesia.

Out of my understanding, the plane transited in Malaysia and the next day we flew to Indonesia. Arriving in Indonesia, the agent was gone, and I did not have any contact numbers of the family. I could not do anything,” Qamariah said regretful.

In her young age of 23, Qamariah has already encountered much suffering and loss. Women who are forced to leave their homeland in search for safety and security are vulnerable and need of protection. Living as woman and asylum seeker in displacement does not provide the safety or security needed. In constant danger of being arrested and detained, never knowing what the next day might bring in a life without a clear future or any guarantees, Qamariah is expecting to become a mother.

About the father of her child, also an asylum seeker, she says “We both fell in love and I became pregnant, before he disappeared. Now I am confused and in panic.” As asylum seeker and refugee, women and men are not able to get legally married in many places of the world including Indonesia, children born to them have difficulties to secure birth certificates and a nationality. Will Qamariah’s child continue to suffer?

Qamariah, born to a family or clan experiencing persecution, is bound to continue her journey through the world, enduring the suffering, threats and uncertainties until finding the people and a country that is willing to accept her for what she is, a human being, giving her the rights that she deserves and long yearned for – the Right to Freedom of Physical Harm, the Right to Education, the Right to a Nationality, the Right to form a Family and the Right to Work.

Rights we take for granted every day.

*** For the protection and security, all names in this article are fictive.

Fransisca Asmiarsi

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