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A mother's sacrifice

Zahra Muhammad's story, narrated by her English-speaking daughter Amina from Somalia, sheds light on the trials faced by many Yemeni refugees.


I was invited into a house filled with women of various ages and nationalities, eager to share their stories. Sitting on the floor, I found myself next to a radiant Yemeni girl with dark features and a broad smile. To my right, another young girl dutifully held a phone, facilitating the conversation between Zahra and me. Across from me sat Helima, who had just shared her story and now listened attentively to Zahra's.


Zahra, wearing a peach-colored hijab adorned with gold flowers, sat on the bed to my left. Leaning forward, she began recounting her past and present life.


Amina, speaking from her home in Somalia, explained Zahra's journey. Zahra and her husband, a Somali native who moved to Yemen in his 20s, prioritized their children's education. Initially, the war did not immediately disrupt their lives. However, when Al-Qaeda infiltrated their city, young boys were coerced out of schools and mosques to join their ranks. The couple feared this possible reality for their children.


The city of Hadhramaut changed drastically, with electricity available only one day a month and everyday goods skyrocketing in price. The family temporarily moved to Somalia to live with relatives, but their extended family was unwelcoming. The first year was particularly challenging.


In Somalia, paying for school was beyond the family's means. Jobs were scarce and poorly paid, making the parents' dreams for their children seem unreachable. In 2018, Zahra made the impulsive decision to flee to Jordan for better-paying work and healthcare. Her departure came after her divorce. Through connections, she was promised help in Jordan.


Zahra's priority was addressing her kidney stones. Before Ramadan this year, she had part of them removed, but still experiences pain. In three months, she is scheduled for another appointment to remove the remaining stones. Her discomfort currently limits her ability to work.


Zahra feels stuck in Jordan, unable to return to Yemen due to instability, and finding residency in Somalia difficult after her divorce. Life in Jordan is not much better.


"She is a social person; I know she has a lot of friends there," Amina said. Despite the locals' friendliness, Zahra struggles to find work beyond cleaning houses. She applied for a work visa through the UN but is always met with "not now." Zahra remains alone in a foreign land without family support.


"We miss her and she misses us," Amina explained. Despite her small income, Zahra manages to send enough money to support Amina's education. Amina is studying international relations and hopes to visit Jordan soon.


Zahra's sacrifices stem from her desire to support her children's future and create an environment unlike her past. She maintains a genuine smile and carries herself with grace and strength, her hijab draping femininely around her tall frame.

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