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The people without a country

September 10, 2007
Text: Archana Masih
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

On a hot afternoon where humidity in Delhi is 67 per cent, Roaa Mohammad's mother is reading a prayer book on a street under a tree. She wears a black burqa, her head covered twice over with a white and black hijab, the ornate box in which she carries her Quran, gleaming under the hot sun.

For two weeks her family has lived on the street because they have no place to stay. Unable to afford the rent, they moved to a pavement, spreading mattresses for beds and boxes as stools. A small gas stove lies unused by the wall. Today, the gas has also run out.

But the day has ended well. Her daughter Roaa has found another house and they moved in, leaving their mattress behind for another Afghan refugee who had arrived at the pavement just that morning.

Yet, the family's loss is far greater and far poignant. What they suffer every day is the bitter outcome of a war that has driven them out of the country that was their home.

Fourteen months ago, Roaa's family fled from Iraq after her father was shot in his arm and their beloved city of Baghdad destroyed in post-war terror. They arrived in Delhi, the city Roaa, 27, had lived in as a student at the Jamia Milia Islamia University.

Life has been a tough since and it is left to her to fight this battle of survival for the family. Her knowledge of English and the responsibility that comes with being the elder child has put that mantle on Roaa Mohammad's slender shoulders.

Also read: The plight of the Kashmiri Pandit refugees

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