Commentary by Palestinian Iraqi immigrant to Norway – Dana A. Mahmoud
My family is originally Palestinian from Haifa. My grandparents (from both sides) were born in Haifa, which is now part of Israel. In 1948, during the conflict that followed the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (11) ‘Future Government of Palestine’ (also called the Partition Plan for Palestine), my grandparents, on both sides, left for safety to Basra, Iraq. For 6 months they were in flight because of the violence and death that broke out in the Haifa region. Then they moved to Baghdad, Iraq.
I call myself a Palestinian Iraqi female.
I used to hold an Iraqi document that allowed me to legally live in Iraq and other countries, including the UAE – United Arab Emirates. This document was valid for me and my family until 2006. That was when the new Iraqi Government took over. It was this government that decided not to renew our document. Why?
Because our family suddenly became the wrong (Sunni Muslim) religion. As a result of this action my family and I became stateless.
Let me give you some of my history: My dad (born in Haifa) and my mother (born in Baghdad) met in Baghdad in 1977. After marrying they moved to the UAE where I, and my 3 sisters, were born. My dad was an electrical engineer who worked in the UAE Ministry of Information and Culture. My mother worked for the UAE Ministry of Health.
We had a very normal and good life until 1989 when my dad discovered that he has lung cancer. He was in and out of hospitals for treatment for almost 10 years. In 1997, my father passed away.
It was then our lives started to be really bad.
We had to move from our big house to a small house, 60km away, losing many of the privileges we had from my dad’s job. Having nothing except faith that one day I’ll achieve something, I continued to work and study toward my university degree.
It was like that. I worked as my sisters finished high school. Two of them got married, as I and the youngest stayed home continuing to work and study.
In 2006, when our documents were no longer valid, everyone in my family was suddenly not legal anymore in the UAE (or any other country for that matter).
We started to look for a legal way out.
During this time, one of my sister’s had gone to Syria after she and her husband, and his family, were forced to flee Iraq. After starting a small business between Iraq and Syria my brother-in-law was bombed on the road one day. We don’t know who did this to him. My sister was pregnant at the time, with a son, and she fled quickly alone to Cyprus applying for asylum there. Since November 2008 my sister and her son have been living in Cyprus.
In 2008, I applied for asylum, in Norway, for myself and my family. But we were refused legal permissions.
In the process I applied with the UDI – the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration. We were refused after 22 months of waiting. I appealed the decision, but it was rejected. Why?
For two reasons: Because our 1948 document of permissions from Iraq had been discontinued. Also, because we came to Norway, not from Iraq, but via the United Arab Emirates. Because of this, were not considered war victims.
Even though our family had been running from war for generations.
To find assistance, I tried to contact the Palestinian Embassy and the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm. My mother, my younger sister and I wanted to see if there was any way that we could just go back to where we had lived before. We wanted to do this before we were rejected again by the Norwegian government, but both embassies told me, “It’s not possible,” we could not return to the UAE or to Iraq legally.
The Palestine Embassy informed us that they could not help us because we were not part of a Palestinian family coming from Gaza. The Iraqi Embassy told us that no one could return back to Iraq once they had stayed over 6 months outside the country.
Even on making contact with the UNHCR – United Nations Refugee Agency to ask for help, they offered us little options, saying we should apply to live in UNHCR camps in Turkey or Syria.
Today our new appealed case is coming before the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board. We pray every day for a resolution to this situation.
We feel we have been left with no life. We have no passports. No way of legal travel. No valid residency. No official recognition from the countries of our past. No recognition inside the country of our future – Norway where we now live.
Now our future is vague. We are adrift, in pain, with no legal place to go. We are stateless and paperless.
Dana A. Mahmoud is currently working hard to help her and her family stay and live legally in Norway.
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