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Iraq: A not-so-unique tragedy

01-05-2003 News Release 03/47

After twenty years of detention in Iran, Adnan returned to Baghdad in March, at the start of the latest war. Everything had changed, including the street names. He could scarcely find his way around the modern city that Baghdad had become.

Adnan became distressed, unable to cope with the changes in society and with the deterioration in the values he believed in. Even the stack of banknotes he received in return for his long years of detention was almost worthless. His dream of building a house soon evaporated.

Adnan's memory was not what it used to be either. It took him days to find his parents'house. Someone else was living there. Even the neighbours had moved. He finally met an old man who remembered him, but even he was shocked to see Adnan, as everyone had assumed he was dead. The man told him his father had died seven years previously, his mother three years later. Desparate, Adnan started searching for his wife. Several gruelling days later he found her phone number, and discovered that she was now living abroad.

The war had destroyed the telecommunications system, but someone directed him to the ICRC, which had set up a satellite phone service. He knew where their office was, because they had given him a detention certificate a few days before. At the office Adnan joined the queue, anticipation rising as he waited to call his wife. All around him, ICRC employees and Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers were busy processing requests, dialling phone numbers, putting people in touch with their relatives abroad for the first time in weeks. Adnan was getting more and more tense. Finally, his turn came. He took the phone and uttered a few stumbling words. A long pause. In the busy office, others sensed that something was desperately wrong. As all around him fell silent, Adnan burst into tears. He hung up the phone and walked away, his face drained of expression. His wife had re-married a y ear ago.

 Further information:  

 Tamara Al-Rifai, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++ 41 79 244 64 14  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++ 41 79 217 32 26  

 Nada Doumani, ICRC Baghdad, tel.: ++ 873 761 845 610