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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le cri de Sanaa, femme de disparu

by Pierre Barbancey (interview)

Sanaa’s cry for her disappeared husband

Translated Thursday 2 July 2009, by Kristina Wischenkamper

Sanaa is 36 years old and has two children aged 6 and 4. She studied French Literature. Three years ago her life changed. Here is her story.

"I was born in 1974 in Baghdad. I grew up in the Shiite quarter of Kadamiya, even though my family were Sunnis. My husband had been a bass player. He was kidnapped in July 2006. I was contacted and asked to pay a ransom. I first gave 5,000 dollars then 3,000 more, but he wasn’t let free. One day they phoned me on my husband’s mobile. A young voice. He told me that my husband was dead and that his body had been thrown into the Tigris 20 days earlier. I didn’t know whether or not to believe him. Either way, I started my own researches again, trying to find him. Six months ago I even went to a clairvoyant ...

"It’s so unjust, what’s happening to us women. It’s unjust that there is war, that there are corpses in the streets, that every Saturday women search for their kidnapped husbands outside some military building, and then the next day somewhere else. There are always lists coming out. The police call out the names. I remember one time, it was in winter. It was very cold. There was a heavy, unforgiving rain. There were lots of women dressed in their abayas [Ed: a traditional form of hijab]. They were waiting for the names to be published. So that they’d know whether their husband or son had been found. A woman fell to the ground, she just couldn’t take any more. But no one went to help her. It made me very angry. I covered her head. It was at this moment that I decided not to come any more, not to wait any more for the lists. In summer it’s even worse with the heat. The name of the disappeared is written on a tiny piece of paper. We wait in the heat. The police hit us on the legs so that we will fall into line. While we wait we hear the stories of women who have lost their sons. In the beginning I cried a lot. It’s a place for women to cry. They sing the merits of their sons. After a year I got used to it. With just one look I could pick out those women who were here for the first time to stand in line with us. Because I’d been like them.

"It’s very difficult for me to imagine that my husband is dead. But my emotional state was taking a heavy toll on my children. So I went back to work."

Interviewed in Baghdad by P.B.

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