Miriam drew her two younger sisters closer to her as the gun sounds grew louder. She tried to block out the sound of war by whispering her favorite mantra, ‘home is family, family is home.’ A few minutes later, the gun fight came to an end and Miriam hoped to Allah that whoever had won was the lesser cruel of the two parties. “Come out,” a voice called. Knowing that hiding would not help her, Miriam emerged from her hiding place and found herself before five uniformed men. She recognized the uniform. These were the men who had shot up her village, killing her parents. “There is a camp a mile from here, go before I change my mind and leave the young girl behind,” one of the men said pointing towards her older sibling who had recently turned thirteen. Knowing what that meant, Miriam held her hand tighter. ‘You either leave her with us or we shoot her dead, either way, you two are leaving she is not,’ the soldier said with a serious look.
“It was cruel,” Miriam recalls. “To have to make the choice between death and torture, I would choose death any day,” she says tearfully. “For two years, my youngest sister and I moved from camp to camp. Then the hunger began. As the war became worse, more people fled to the refugee camps and soon enough, it was too crowded to feed the entire population. I watched in pain as my sister grew malnutrition without the power to do anything until her body could not handle anymore. It was a few weeks after her death when I got the opportunity to escape from the country and immigrate to the United States.” Miriam stops to wipe down her tears. “I think the worst part about it all was knowing I had to survive. Someone had to tell the story and I was the only one left,” She says with a far distanced look. “It has been ten years and I cannot say I have forgotten much. I can still hear the gunshots that killed my parents. I can still see blood dripping out of my older sister’s forehead. I still feel my younger sister grow frailer in my arms.” More tears fall down but this time round, she lets them flow.
“Yes, I have been through therapy for the last five years and it has kept me together. It has helped me recollect some pieces of myself I thought I had lost forever. But no, therapy is not what keeps me going. Rather, it is knowing that I owe my family the life that was so cruelly grabbed from them,” she stops and looks around the room. “This is a beautiful house, a beautiful land, and the country looks peaceful now compared to 10 years ago. What IOM is doing is wonderful and inspirational. You are returning people to their land, their home; and it is not something which should be taken lightly. I appreciate it but I am afraid I cannot take the offer because this is not my home. I believe home is family and mine is long gone.”