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To Amman with love

As PN goes to press, our Youth Editor is returning from Jordan, where she has been filming Iraqi refugee children for a Children Against War documentary.

On Friday morning, Church bells awakened me, which I found strange in a Muslim country. After a little breakfast with my host Kathy Kelly, I was wide awake and raring to go.

The market was extremely crowded because the children will start school on Sunday. Stalls were full of rucksacks, notebooks and children's shoes.

For many Iraqi children, the decision to let them enter government schools means they can begin their education again, here in Jordan. Some of them were out of school for three years.

We visited one of the most beautiful mosques I've ever seen, the King Abdullah mosque. The details and patterns drew me in and I felt a deeper sense of involvement in my religion. From Russia with love Near to our hotel, we met with two beautiful young women, age 15 and 16. They welcomed us into the simple, neat flat where they live with their father.

They've been living in Amman since 2000, but since their father is not allowed to work here, they have no income.

Both of them feel sad about having left Iraq because that was their home country.

Something I especially appreciated was that they gave me confidence as I started my film project. They were easygoing, and helped me get over feeling tense.

Abu Mohammed

Next we went to another neighbourhood in Amman to visit Abu Mohammed and his family.

As soon as we entered, they embraced us and asked us to sit on mats in a narrow outdoor hallway leading to their home. I could immediately tell that this was a very close family. Eight people share a small flat.

I didn't expect to find a new friend so quickly, but when their 16-year-old daughter welcomed me so warmly and as we talked about our lives, we quickly bonded. We prayed together. They gave me a gift of three scarves. I hope we can return to visit my new friend and her family before I leave.


On Saturday, we took a cab to a neighborhood called Hai Dubat, where we met another family. The oldest son, Rami, told us about a very difficult time in his life. Kidnappers captured him and threatened to kill him if the family didn't pay $15,000. Rami is obviously an athlete - he plays football and supports Manchester United, - and he struck me as the sort who had the confidence to be a captain for a football team. His sisters are very bright and eager to learn more about English. One of the sisters was very shy and didn't want to be filmed.


Later we went to an after-school club (which had a peace garden) where the children were running races. The children were very happy, racing each other. They cheered me up. I had been feeling a bit sad after hearing Rami tell his story.

In the evening, we met Umm Abeer and her daughter, Abeer. Abeer is 15. We share in common a similar music sense, film sense, hobby sense,­ everything! The only difference is that she's from Iraq, and I'm from Britain. No one would have necessarily known that we were from different countries because we were able to be like sisters to each other.

So that I won't forget her, Abeer gave me her own ring. This is a privilege for me.

You can support Iraqi refugee families via Electronic Intifada's "Direct Aid Initiative" (for restitution not charity). Cheques can be sent to DAI, c/o the Middle East Cultural & Charitable Society, PO Box 382425, Cambridge, MA 02238, USA; noah@electroniciraq.net Kathy Kelly reports from Amman: http://vcnv.org Sonia's completed documentary will be distributed in October on DVD by the peace group Justice Not Vengeance, 0845 458 9571; http://j-n-v.org

Sonia Azad is 12 years old.

Topics: Refugees