My name is Aisha. I am 34-years-old. I was born in Iraq. I am the mother of two adult children and one seven-year-old daughter. I got married at 13—a child bride—and survived 20 years of a terribly violent marriage. Once I arrived in Canada, I thought, maybe now I can escape.
New in Canada and a recent refugee, I had no extended family or friends to turn to. My family had experienced the war in Iraq and endured unbelievable horrors. If you have never been in a war, you would struggle to imagine or believe me. Once, we watched when my husband’s fingernails were ripped off one by one, by thieves. All of us in the family witnessed that. We were hiding in another room, watching through a curtain, and listening to his piercing cries. Sometime after that happened, we fled to Syria. And I guess you know what happened there. War also broke out almost as soon as we arrived.
Finally, thank goodness, we qualified to come to Canada, under the Syrian refugee program.
We had been through so much together and to be honest, that’s what made me doubt my decision to leave. It would be such a betrayal of my husband, wouldn’t it? After all, every one of us had all suffered so much violence. How about my little daughter? He was the only provider she had known. But I needed to do what was right. This was a scary decision. I had no one to talk to in Canada. How would I get help?
My settlement worker was the only one I knew I could trust. I raised all my courage and asked her for help and she saved me—she brought me to the shelter. It was that morning that my husband would hit my child for the last time, that he would follow me to my ESL class, demanding that I leave with him, the last time he would shout profanities at me and hit me in front of my child. I could not take one more day. I took my daughter and ran for our lives on March 1st, 2017.
I stayed at the shelter for about 5 months. Let me tell you a change came about me. I started to take care of myself, gaining confidence and boy did my language skills improve! I joined every program that I could with the assistance of an interpreter. I enrolled in ESL classes. Not only was there a beautiful change in me, my daughter also blossomed. All my daughter had known her whole little life was war. Now wonderful changes were occurring with her.
She engaged in the children’s programs, she attended camps which she loved and she joined me in the Positive Parenting program. I had a graduation! It was so exciting. My new-found pride was contagious to the other women and it created an amazing celebration of achievement and accomplishment.
At the end of my stay I was able to move into a beautiful apartment in which I take great pride. My daughter planted seeds and started a garden. She is blossoming in Canada just like the seeds she planted in her garden.