A young Iraqi mosaic artist
Out of the trauma of Iraq, Riveen emerges into a beautiful new era of creativity and hope.Olive Tree Centre
Riveen was playing with friends in 2005 in Qaraqosh, when an explosion went off. She was struck with shrapnel in her calf, back and neck. The scars and physical pain from the event remain today. The source of the attack was never identified.
For thousands of Iraqis just like Riveen, bomb blasts, kidnapping and persecution was part of everyday life. Then ISIS came and changed the trajectory of her life forever.
Riveen was just 18 years old when ISIS invaded in 2014. She fled with her family overnight to a small village near Dohuk in Kurdistan. Here they found temporary accommodation in a school that had been converted to support internally displaced persons (IDPs). The conditions were difficult with around 100 families sharing this cramped makeshift space.
During the chaos, Riveen was separated from her beloved, Saemon, who was now in Jordan with his family. Hopes of their engagement began to fade as Riveen was denied a visa to Jordan 5 times. Finally, it was decided that Riveen would travel to Lebanon where she and Saemon were married in 2015. Life in Lebanon as refugees was difficult. But Riveen and Saemon clung to the hope of a new life together in Jordan.See what happened to Riveen in part two
Out of the trauma of Iraq, Riveen emerges into a beautiful new era of creativity and hope.
Riveen and Saemon were finally approved for visas to Jordan and ended up in a small city called Madaba. It is famous for its mosaics. The Madaba Map is part of a 6th century floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George. It is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land.
Riveen was trained in making mosaics as part of a project run by a Christian charity in Madaba. She has come through many traumatic experiences into a wonderful new era of creativity and hope. Riveen’s beautiful mosaic of an Olive Tree adorns the wall of the reception area of our first Olive Tree Centre in Madaba. She now volunteers at the Centre.
Life is hard for these refugees in Jordan. They are not allowed to work for pay. Riveen and Saemon have to live off the small stipend she receives from the Catholic Church for her mosaics and any relief from charities and churches. The Olive Tree Centre has given Riveen and hundreds of other Iraqi refugees hope and new opportunities through educational classes, trauma counselling and therapeutic activities. Riveen is actively involved in the life of the centre and encourages and inspires many refugees through her positive demeanour and hardworking nature.
However, events in 2020 have definitely taken a toll on Riveen and Saemon, with the pain of separation from family. When they left Iraq some older family members stayed behind. That pain turned to grief as Saemon’s mother succumbed to the Coronavirus in Iraq, leaving her husband of 65 years completely alone. “We worry for my father,” said Saemon, “We worry we can’t be there with him; we worry for his future.”
Throughout her young life, Riveen has experienced so much trauma and heartache but she has never let this stop her from moving forwards. She is a true survivor, and wise beyond her years.
She told us “Nothing can take away our hope and our faith”.
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