Invisible lives: Roksan Suleiman

“There are opportunities for women to work. In Erbil you can find jobs easily. But it’s difficult to go outside the camp and look for jobs.

“Firstly, the police will not let any girl go out of the camp alone. Secondly, the family will not let girls go out to find a job. And thirdly, once she has left the camp and found a job, how is she going to come back alone?

“Women are not like men. They don’t feel confident or comfortable alone outside the camp. There may be violence. They are scared about these things. I tried to leave and asked for permission just to go to the hairdresser in a nearby village but they would not let any girl go out alone. There was a woman working as a hairdresser outside the camp but inside the camp they started talking about her and now she’s not working any more.

“They talked about how she was going out alone and coming back alone. The men and the police were asking what she was going to do outside the camp? Was she going to work really? You know what I mean – I am thinking of bad things.

“All I wanted was to get a haircut. It causes psychological pressure. I’m always thinking about it. I wanted to go to the dentist but my mother couldn’t come with me and I couldn’t go alone. Here it’s like a prison.

“There’s a border here and we cannot cross it alone, or even with friends. We have to think and plan for days just to go out and do a simple thing. We have to take a brother, mother or father with us. Once we go outside the border of the camp we breathe again.

“I’m always stressed out. We are under pressure and we have this stress all the time. We are refugees. We lost our houses, jobs, relatives but here the stress is more. It feels like we are going to explode. In Syria we were free to go and come back freely without worrying about these things.

“I do want to marry but I don’t want to marry young. First the girl should make herself strong and once she can speak loudly and have a strong mind then she can marry. If I was married from a young age, as soon as problems happened between me and my husband I wouldn’t be able to solve it. But now I’ve graduated, I’ve worked and I’ve faced problems so if I got married now it would be easier for me.”

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