Tajik woman returned from Syria after her husband’s death: “We were deceived”.
According to the official information from Tajikistan, there are about 500 citizens of Tajikistan taking part in the Syrian conflict. More than 150 Tajiks have been reported to be dead.
It is the young people aged 19-45 who tend to go to this dangerous place. Their families quite often join them. Tajiks reach Syria via Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They fight on the side of the extremist group called “Islamic State”.
Most of the new recruits are recruited from those Tajiks who work in Russia.
A 30-years old citizen of Dushanbe Jamolbi Hamidova spent almost a year in Syria. The time spent in Syria was like a nightmare for her. She cannot forget it. Jamolbi can hardly believe that she managed to escape and return home alive after her husband’s death. BBC Russian service reported that Sharif Hamidov died in Syria.
- How did you turn out in Syria?
- My neighbours introduced me to my prospective husband. They said that my husband-to-be was a good guy and he would like to get married. We liked each other when we met. I finished 3 grades of the elementary school and I can hardly read and write. My father is handicapped and my mother is a housewife. My parents had no money to educate neither me nor my siblings. This is why none of us finished a secondary school.
We went to Krasnodar to make some money for living with my husband. He worked at a construction site. We wanted to earn some money and buy a house or some land. We were willing to have our own place where we could live together as a family.
So we spent a year in Russia. One day we were watching a TV coverage about combat operations in Syria. Sharif told me then that he wanted to go there and fight. I was struck dumb when I heard that.
I could not believe that such a kind, quiet, trustful and open person would say that he wanted to fight somewhere. We had an argument then as I was against that idea. It never crossed my mind. I did not think about Syria, war and jihad. I was dreaming about my own house, children and a big friendly family.
My husband realised that I was not happy about that idea and he did not raise it since then. I thought that it was an unfortunate joke.
Sharif was a religious person like all his family. Even while in Russia, he tried not to miss out his prayers and went to the mosque on a regular basis.
My husband made very little money. It was hardly enough to pay the rent, so we could not save anything.
One day Sharif told me that he was going to Turkey to earn some money. I was placed before an accomplished fact. He left me in his friend’s place. One month later, my husband called me to Turkey. He said that he found a job there.
- Did you go to Istanbul to your husband?
- I loved Istanbul very much. It is such a beautiful city. My husband met me there. While we were on a bus on the day of my arrival, I was thinking about finding a job and living in Istanbul. I thought it would be a very nice place to live.
I asked Sharif where we were going and where we would live. He did not tell me anything. We spent the whole day going somewhere. Then we reached some place and got on a car.
The car took us to some gaunt landscape. At this point, my husband ordered me to keep silent and to run as fast as I could. Why? Where? Sharif said that there was no time to ask questions. The only thing we should do was to run as quickly as possible.
There were four of us in the car. There was a Russian girl with us too. She was going to Syria with us. So, I ran as I was told to. I was running for a while until I completely wore myself out. This was in Ramadan and I was hungry and quite tired anyway.
I started to cry and tried to find out where we were. My husband confessed that it was Syria. He said that not everyone was so lucky to get there. I started to shout at him and told him that I did not want to be there. I told him that he deceived me and it was unfair of him to do that to me. He said that I could leave if I felt like. But where could I go? I looked around. There was a desert all around. I did not have any money and I did not know the language. It was hard to sort it out how I could return.
I put up with this. Somebody met us in Syria and took us to a big house. There were two brothers with their wives living there. They were Arabs. They gave us a room. A week later, they took us to another house. I have no idea how those settlements are called. There are mountains around. There is almost no grass.
- What did your husband do?
- I barely saw him. I lived in a house with other women. They were Arabs, Uzbeks, Russians and Chechens. My husband came over once a week. Sometimes I saw him once in a fortnight. He brought some potatoes and pasta.
Husbands of all the women in the house, where I lived, were fighting on the side of ISIS.
The food was not nice at all. But considering where we were, we could not choose anything else.
We used gestured to communicate with each other. There were a lot of pregnant women with children.
Every time when we were bombarded from the air, we got together in one room, cuddled up and cried. The children were crying out and we were crying and praying for rescue. It is impossible to explain how scary it was. It is horrible to think whether you would be killed on that day. Everybody regretted that they had arrived there. They could not understand why their husbands made their children and them go through all that.
We could not leave the house. There was no medicine or food. We were hungry. Women were not allowed to leave their rooms. We could go out in emergency only or if we wanted to go to the toilet which was in the yard. We cooked on the fire outside.
When we went out, we put gloves and a nicab on. It was not allowed to talk, laugh or walk.
There were about 5-6 people in each room. We slept on thin mattresses. There was no furniture or carpets in the rooms. There was no electricity, air conditioning or water.
The hardest period was when it was hot. We had to buy water. We could not take a bath as often as we needed it. Most of the water was used for drinking and cooking something.
It was extremely hot in the summer and mosquitoes bit us. It was very cold when the winter was approaching. We did not have any warm clothes. We warmed up each other.
The kids often fell ill, but there was no medicine, doctors or drugstores. Some kids were suffering of pain, but their mothers could not do anything about that. I saw mothers looking at their children and crying in despair.
The men were rude to us. They could beat us if we did not cover our faces. It was very hard to breathe through a net on your face. All our clothes were synthetical.
The toilet was outside. We quickly ran outside and went back home straight away. We did not want men to see us.
I never called my parents when I was in Syria. We did not have a chance to call anyone. We lived in a closed space.
We changed the place we lived in every month.
Then my husband disappeared for a month. When he came, I could hardly recognize him. He was injured, all in blood, very skinny and he could barely move around. There were four stitches on his belly. I looked after him, but he needed some medicine and proper food.
Unfortunately, we did not have money, medicine and even water. Nobody visited us while we were there.
- Did your husband explain to you why he went to Syria? Did he want to join the jihad or earn some money?
- My husband was very sorry that he had gone to Syria. He swelled all over and his wounds were bleeding. He was in such a pain that he could not fall asleep. He was penitent. He said that they deceived him and that they promised him something completely different.
However, he did not manage to tell me what they had promised to him. I knew that each month they paid him a hundred dollars. He spent them on food for me. Nobody supported him though after he got injured.
This lasted for two weeks. Then the Arabs came and took him away. They made him leave. He was hardly able to move. We said good-bye to each other.
I had a feeling that I saw him for the last time. He said that he would be hardly able to come back. He said good-bye to me. He said that he was very sorry about everything but there was no way back out of that. He wished me all the best.
Two weeks later, some men arrived and showed me a picture of my husband in their mobile. He was lying with his mouth and eyes open. He was dead. I was so tired that I could not even cry. He was a very good person.
What could a woman do in an alien country where the war was going on? I did not have any acquaintances. I did not know what to do and how I could leave.
A week passed. Then some people came for me and told me to go with them. I was so scared that I could not ask them where we were going. I did not know the Arabic language and they could speak neither Russian nor Tajik.
I tried to use gestures to ask them to let me go home to Tajikistan. There are quite a few Arabic words in Tajik and I tried my best to explain that to them.
They advised me to stay there and marry me for the second time. Nobody asked what I thought. They just took some man, let us sit together and married us off. My new husband was a Dagestani.
Nobody asked you whether you agreed or not. You would not try to disagree with them because you knew that those people were so bad that killing you would be as easy for them as winking. You were just a thing, some object. They did not discuss things with you. They could beat or kill you for any disobedience.
I lived with my new husband for a month. We talked in Russian with each other. This was horrible. I was completely dependent. I was restricted in where I could go. They could beat you, rape you and kill you. They could do anything they liked.
You cannot talk to this people, discuss anything with them, convince them or touch a string in their hearts. They do not sympathise, they are indifferent to your sufferings, feelings and your fate.
A woman is just a creature destined to perform a certain list of functions for them. A woman is not allowed to disagree with a man.
They married off women with children whose husbands died. It was very hard for many women, but they had to obey them. They could not leave and they did not know where to go. They were illiterate and they did not have any profession. There were no relatives around them as well as any hope for the better future.
It is awful to be dependent on circumstances to such an extent that those extremely poor conditions seem to be better than an independent life which they believed they could not live. They obediently put up with the life they had.
- How did you manage to return to your motherland?
- There was a woman with children from Turkey in our house. She was pregnant. They told her that her husband was murdered. They were going to marry her off to another man. She was crying constantly and her children were ill. I and a woman from Chechnya talked the local people of the settlement into helping us to reach the Turkish border.
Virtually, we ran away. My new husband did not know anything about my intentions. He did not know that I had run away.
We reached the border by car. The border was a long iron barrier. We could not go over it at daylight. Frontier guards could open a fire. The Arabs showed us a big hole in the barrier at night. We went through it.
We reached the place where the cars were parked when the dawn was approaching. The cars took us to Istanbul. I had some money left to me by my husband.
The police stopped me at Istanbul. I had my papers with me but the visa was expired by that time.
I explained everything at the police and they put me to the immigrants centre. The police asked me whether I wanted to return to my motherland. I agreed. Turkey bought me a ticket to Dushanbe.
I told everything to the Tajik police at the airport. They were sympathetic to me. I was worried though that they could arrest me. I was held in an isolation cell for four days. They released me once they checked everything. They contacted my parents and they came over to take me with them.
The memories still torment me.
My husband was a very trustful and kind person, but he was uneducated. It was easy to deceive him. He was a victim. I think the recruiters take advantage of people’s credulity. I was left alone. I do not have children.
I call on young girls and women: do not make the same mistakes as I did. Otherwise, you will lose everything you love.