Interview with Rita:
An Iraqi-Christian Woman’s Life After ISIS
HD: Rita, tell us about yourself and your life.
Rita: I’m a girl in my early 20s: very ambitious and smart, according to what people say. I had a bitter childhood, filled with family struggles. I was living in Mosul after ISIS gained control. We managed to escape to Kurdistan. Our village was freed, but we could not return because of the remaining threat.
When I left home to start college, I was often taunted because I don’t wear a hijab, as there is a lot of racism against Christians. The society saw me as something inferior. During my time in school, I built myself a lot of hopes and dreams, but I was surprised by the unwelcome reality. After I finished studying, I couldn’t find work in my field – mechanical engineering – because I am a girl in this society. All of my hopes broke and all of my fears became a reality.
HD: Can you tell us how life was before and after ISIS?
Rita: I used to go up home to Mosul during summer break and life was relaxed. We were calm, my father used to work, and our life was at its best. But after ISIS came, my father stopped working and lost all of his money. Our family’s health and mentality were both affected, causing my father to be constantly ill. Our old house was looted completely and was destroyed, so we moved to Kurdistan and tried to sustain ourselves. The increasing rent posed too great an obstacle, so we moved once again.
HD: How did they treat women in the past versus now?
Rita: In the early 2000’s, the women in our society were not respected, and they were subjected to domestic violence. In my village, the women have to deal with the harsh treatment of the men towards them, including beatings and verbal abuse.
A decade later, in my opinion, things had improved a bit. In the Christian society where I lived, women finally had the right to drive a car, get an education, and voice their opinions. Women had a voice they never had before, but it doesn’t mean they were completely free. Unfortunately, the man continues to have the first and final say.
HD: How does religion affect your life?
Rita: Religion has a big impact on the way I live my life. As a Christian I am a religious minority in Iraq, and society’s view of us is highly incorrect because of the way Western Christians are portrayed in the media. Muslims see us in the same way they see foreigners – in terms of clothes, sex, and male-female friendships (which are forbidden by most Muslims). This misrepresentation is the reason I am not respected by the scholars and teachers at my university. I wish I could show them my religion, the good things, and teach them about it.
HD: What are your dreams for the future?
Rita: My ambitions are, as a woman, to have rights equal to a man’s. I want to work, to be independent and to fulfill myself so that I can benefit myself and my society. My male friends that graduated with me now have jobs and are on their way to actualizing their potential. Why can’t I have the right to enjoy a respected life as the rest of my male friends do, so that my sleepless nights can come to an end?
Translated from Arabic into English