Archives for : SURVIVAL

Nihad told of the brutality she had endured when she was kidnapped by Islamic State and sold into sexual slavery.HER STORY.

‘Australia will be my first home and my last home’: Nihad’s new life begins

London: Twelve months ago Nihad Barakat al-Awsi’s eyes were heavy with sadness.

Sharing her story with Fairfax Media, Nihad told of the brutality she had endured when she was kidnapped by Islamic State and sold into sexual slavery.  She has never again seen the baby boy, Issa, she gave birth to at just 15, and probably never will. She spoke of a sadness so deep she feared the trauma would be ever present in her mind.

Today, Nihad’s face is a happier picture. Three weeks ago she received a call that would change her life. Her application for Australia’s protection & residency had been accepted.

“I will go and I will change everything; I will start a new life there. I will remove it all from my mind,” the 19-year old said from Iraq.

Nihad Barakat al-Awsi will start a new life in Australia.

Later this week, Nihad – one of 18 children – will board a flight to Australia with two brothers and a sister, ready to close the door on their grossly troubled Iraqi lives. It will be a day of mixed emotions & feelings because it means saying goodbye to her parents, who want to stay in Iraq with the remaining family members.

Two of her brothers were forced into Islamic State training camps, while two sisters and another brother were murdered in the terror group’s attempted genocide of the Yazidis.

But Nihad is looking forward to her new life. She dreams of speaking English fluently and becoming a teacher.

“When I reach Australia I just want to learn English and become a teacher,” she said. ”This is the only purpose I have – to become a teacher.”

‘I will go and I will change everything. I will start a new life there.’

Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who met Nihad in London last year while serving as the assistant minister for social services and multicultural affairs, said there was “absolutely no doubt” Nihad would achieve her dreams in Australia,  and be welcomed & resettled by her new community.

“Like all refugees who are resettled in Australia, Nihad and her siblings will receive 500 hours of intensive English language lessons and can apply for more if needed, so she’ll have a great opportunity to pick up English,” he said.

He said refugees are offered housing assistance and help to enrol in education or training courses or look for work. They also receive a basic care or welcome package when they arrive into Australia.

Senator Seselja said only a tiny minority would begrudge the taxpayer-funded services provided to those fleeing harm and persecution.

“We’ve resettled a few hundred Yazidis and several thousand from Iraq and Syria in the last few years,” he said. “Most people I speak to want Australia to be a generous nation and are welcoming of refugees.”

Senator Seselja said Australia also offered support to victims of trauma and torture and this would be provided in Nihad’s case.

Since her escape from Islamic State, Nihad has received support from doctors and psychologists in Iraq. Her case inspired the AMAR Foundation, a London-based charity, to set up its Escaping Darkness program, which funds psychological support services for many thousands of Yazidi women who were traded as sex slaves by Islamic State.

Australia accepted 17,555 refugees in 2015-16 under the humanitarian program, with the highest number (4358) from Iraq. This year Australia will accept 18,750 people fleeing persecution in their country.

When Nihad arrives she will live in Toowoomba, which is home to quite a sizeable Yazidi community, including some of Nihad’s relatives. Nihad is looking forward to seeing her relatives again but also wants to become part of the Australian community.

“I don’t want to come just to see the Yazidis; I want to change my life, I want to change everything,” she said. “Australia will become my first home and my last one.”

Senator Seselja said Nihad’s desires to live an Australian life was common.

“I’ve seen that from so many people who come, not just refugees but from migrants, and it’s wonderful that they can come and want to integrate,” he said. ”I think that’s a great attitude to bring with them.”

But as Nihad looks forward to embracing life in Queensland, she will not entirely close the door on Iraq and the horror she has lived from that August day in 2014 when a cry rang out that dramatically changed her life: “IS are coming.”

About 10,000 Yazidis are estimated to have been slaughtered or kidnapped in the few days that followed. Thousands have never been seen or heard of again. Sinjar is now a rubble and nearly 50 mass graves have been uncovered.

“When I go to Australia I wish to help my people in Iraq because they need us,” she said.

Henry Sapiecha

Missing woman survived on own breast milk in New Zealand

THE mother of two who went missing while running in Rimutaka Park in New Zealand yesterday drank some of her own breast milk to keep her going.

There were emotional scenes as Susan O’Brien was returned by rescuers to her family this morning.

Her parents, husband and children had all been waiting at the entrance to the Orongorongo Track where she started a race yesterday.

Ms O’Brien told reporters she took a wrong turn on the run.

“I’m not a very good orienteering woman.”

She said she was very cold and wet overnight and often thought she would not make it.

“I definitely thought I was going to die.”

However, to keep warm, she dug a hole in the ground.

Missing runner Susan O’Brien is reunited with her family – father Andrew Khoo, mother Maggie Khoo and husband Daniel O’Brien – after being found in the Rimutaka Forest Park. Photo / Mark Mitchell

What got her through were thoughts of her children, she said.

“Nothing else mattered but my family.”

Much of her time was used to pray, she said.

“I felt God with me the whole time.”

The ordeal has not put her off track running, she said.

Her husband, Daniel O’Brien said he never gave up hope of her returning.

Ms O’Brien’s father, Andrew Khoo, said he was very happy to have his daughter return.

“Thank you everyone for helping,” he said.

“I am very happy to see my daughter come back.”

Ms O’Brien’s mother, Maggie Khoo, could not stop tears from flowing and hugged her daughter when she arrived.

Police had earlier confirmed a sighting after a member of the public said they spoke to a woman matching her description in the Orongorongo Valley yesterday.

The 29-year-old Wellington woman had been missing since yesterday after she failed to finish a trail run in the hills near Wainuiomata.

missing_trail_runner-new zealand image

A search and rescue operation was launched yesterday when the runner failed to appear out of the hills.

Police believe she may have taken a wrong turn and became lost trying to find her way back to the trail.

A member of the public told police they spoke to a woman matching the 29-year-old’s description at Haurangi Hutt late yesterday morning.

At 7am this morning, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter began searching the area with heat detection equipment in an attempt to locate her.

Additional Land, Search and Rescue teams from the Horowhenua and Wairarapa were also in the area and began searching at around 8am.


Henry Sapiecha