Asmahan sharing her wish with Nina Magazine
Asmahan Nasir is a 30-year-old widow. She lives in Baghdad. Her husband was killed in 2009, so she spends her days searching for a business to set up to pay the monthly rental of $200 for just one room at her sister’s house. She is trying to be both father and mother to her three children.
When she was a child, her dream was quite simply to have a garden with flowers. Her parents banned her from school when she was ten years old and this dream started to fade. She was forced into an arranged marriage when she was 20. After ten years of marriage, she got the phone call that shattered that world also. “Your husband has been killed”
For a year after his death, pain, tears and hopelessness was her reality. Her extended family didn’t show much support and nor did her friends. Because she was a widow, society rejected her. She was alone and her dream of that garden was crushed in dark despair.
Two years ago, while she was walking her children to school early one morning, her 10-year-old son Sajad looked her in the eye and told her with a calm voice:
“Mother, I will work and get us money and take care of you; don’t worry, Mama.”
It brought on more tears, but his simple words also woke up her soul, a soul that has been in a cage for her entire life.
Before getting married, she used to work with her mother in a hairdressers. These days, she is back practising her trade again, with ladies that come to the house to get a new hairstyle.
Asmahan also decided to take English and computer classes. She does that while her three children are at school. She picks up her children on her way back from her lessons and heads back home. Then, while they are taking an evening nap, she works on styling and cutting neighbours’ hair. This is important, as it gives her money to pay the rent. Her day ends by helping her children with their homework.
In the darkness and stillness of the night, Asmahan thinks about her life and where it is going. One day, she wants to open a hairdressing shop. Importantly though, she also wants to make sure she has enough time to look after her children.
“I have to give my children the attention they need. That comes first. Then I look to myself. Things are getting better, though. Every day I feel am a new person, a stronger one. It is odd: because I am a widow, people think I should somehow stay in the background, but I don’t. Instead I work and cope; they don’t expect that. I have learned to ignore the people who criticize. In fact, these days, when I hear them, I use the pain their words give me and it makes me stronger. My life has taught me that the more time you spend in darkness, the more you appreciate the light.”
Through her tears, Asmahan’s face is wreathed in smiles. She says, “I love the sun.”
Her single room has hairdressing tools and posters of Sinbad the adventurer, because “ we all love adventures, including me”. Despite her pain, and the struggles of surviving in such a tough environment, which include security issues, finance problems and society traditions, her simple room is so warm and happy. As I leave, I have a lingering sense of the warmth and hope she has shared – a new kind of garden for a new kind of future.
Reporting by Duraid Adnan
Asmahan wants to open a hairdressers’ in the house she is living in. The owner has approved, but she has no money or anyone to give her a loan to build and stock it. Can anyone help make her wish come true? If you have the right contacts, ideas or support mechanisms, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org. We will report back in August!
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