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Afram left war-torn Iraq with his wife Dorette and adult daughter Ban in 2007. A highly regarded and well known doctor, with his own health clinic in Basra, Afram worked very hard as a law abiding Iraqi citizen. But life in Iraq was just too dangerous to stay. As Christians, Afram and his family were a part of the minority in Iraq. Afram’s wife, Dorette, a dentist, was born in Iraq to an Iraqi mother and an Anglo-Indian father. Dorette was told she was not Iraqi by the regime and considered a ‘foreigner’.  “Not Iraqi, not English, in the only country I had ever known,” explains Dorette. Afram was placed in charge of a large military hospital where he was told to join the Ba’ath Party, which he refused. Daughter Ban was threatened physically by a robber in their home. Dorette and Ban were told to wear the Burkha when out in public, despite them being Christians. 

Having retired and moved to Bagdad, Afram was forced to leave his house in Basra. Afram, Dorette and Ban felt threatened, and lived in fear of their lives, every day in Bagdad. With one daughter in Australia already and their other adult children living in countries like Sweden, Canada and New Zealand, they decided they needed to find a better life, and eventually joined their daughter in Melbourne, after spending two years in Syria.

Arriving in Melbourne as refugees and settling in an outer suburb, in the same street as their daughter, Afram quickly became depressed. For three years, Afram slept all day, every day. He suffered from terrible nightmares, slept all day, and was generally disconnected from the outside world. Spending three years in bed has left Afram with mobility and multiple health problems. Unsure of how to seek help for Afram, Dorette and Ban worried, and sought sanctuary within their local churches. With the help of their GP, Afram was introduced to annecto, and their case worker, Rebecca. “Rebecca is very kind. I am happiest now that Rebecca and annecto help me,” explains Afram. Afram has always relied on his strong faith, and says it is his faith in God, his family and annecto’s help that has helped him heal. 

When asked about the nightmares, Afram explains he thinks they are a combination of things: the medication he takes, his experience in the war, and the disappointment and anger he still feels about how he and his family were treated in Iraq. 

“I worry about my children too.” Afram explains. When asked what the future holds, Afram smiles. “I am happiest here in Melbourne. Wherever we go (before) there was war.” Afram and his family live a quiet life.  They attend church, spend time with their daughter and their three grandchildren, and feel happy, safe and relaxed.

Since Afram’s health has improved and he has been able to leave his bed during the day, he spends a lot of time gardening. Their home is teeming with potted plants. Every surface and available piece of floor has a beautiful potted plant on it. Each one with its own character. A ceramic puppy pot with its belly holding the plant. Quirky ornaments such as ceramic flowers, an old brooch, a toy crocodile, an Australian flag, or a green tree frog, adorn each plant.  “These are my patients now,” Afram laughs.

Ban is Afram’s youngest child. Now 49 years of age, Ban has severe social anxieties from her experiences growing up in Iraq. She lives a quiet life consisting of living with her parents, visiting sister and nieces and nephews down the street, and attending church. When I ask Dorette and Ban what they think of Australia, Ban nods positively and smiles a smile that threatens to split her face.  Dorette, points to the tiny Australian flag she has pinned in her hair.  “We like Australia, it’s a happy place. People are friendly here,” explains Dorette. “I was told I wasn’t Iraqi, not English… but I am Australian,” Dorette explains with proud emphasis on ‘Australian’. Ban passes me the framed photograph of herself, her mother and father all receiving their citizenship certificates, two years ago. The day was very special to all of them and is captured in three separate picture frames, holding pride of place in three separate locations around the lounge room. 

Afram and his family have seen and experienced unfathomable persecution in their homeland and found immeasurable serenity and contentment in Australia. Happy pottering about his garden, creating beautiful pot plants and soaking up the moderate temperatures, Afram remembers his large garden in Basra, and notes that he’s always gained pleasure around plants. “I’m happy, I feel from the heart,” he explains as he points to Rebecca. “A person like you, I am grateful, they’ve (sic) taken care of me.”

 

To be happy

be in Australia.

 

To be more happy,

be in Melbourne.

 

To be most happy,

be with annecto.

 

Australia thank you,

annecto thank you,

Rebecca thank you.

 

We love you all,

Afram, Dorette and Ban.

 

annecto Annual Report cover 2014-15For more stories and information about annecto you can download our annual report here.

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