Breaking through stigma
A personal account on the repatriation journey by Safia
(Name changed to protect identity)
"My name is Safia. I am 16 years old.
I came back from Iraq last year with my siblings.
It was a tough year for us as we did not have an opportunity to study before. We started learning math, and with the help of tutors and extra hours after school, we quickly became the best at it. It was not easy to catch up with our peers in such a short time, but we made it!
When I arrived, I did not want to tell people about my past. I tried to avoid questions, judgments, and gossip. Therefore, I isolated myself from people for some time.
Now I am better. I have made friends and new plans for the future.
I am taking Russian language courses to become an interpreter. My brother wants to be a policeman to catch and punish murderers and buglers.
The only problem we have - we want our mom back. We missed her so much. She is imprisoned in Iraq. It is so bad there. There are a lot of diseases, the food is bad, and the water is not clean. My mom should not be there!"
In October 2021, the Government of Uzbekistan made a firm commitment to repatriating children like Safia and her four brothers from Iraq. Children received medical care, psychosocial support, and access to education including tutoring and extra classes to help the children catch up with missed years of schooling.
The boys and girls have been reunified with their grandparents and benefited from comprehensive reintegration assistance from UNICEF and the NGO “Barqaror Hayot”.
Furthermore, the grandparents are getting monthly allowances for their grandchildren as their official guardians.
Children and their grandparents were supported within the EU-funded project 'EU-UN Support to the States in Central Asia for their citizens returned from conflict zones, primarily Syria and Iraq'.