Sama’s transformation since she started therapy at Freedom from Torture has been truly remarkable. I vividly remember the moment when she arrived at our door seeking help. I welcomed her inside and, since then, I’ve had the privilege of accompanying her on her inspirational journey of transformation. At first, she seemed extremely scared and confused. Her eyes were red, her face was pale, and she seemed exhausted.
Sama’s background: over a decade of torture
As a Kurdish woman from Iraq, Sama suffered over a decade of physical and psychological torture at the hands of the state. However, this torture wasn’t happening in a prison, but within her own home. It was inflicted by her politically powerful husband and permitted by the authorities because they deny women their basic human rights. Even her own father, who had arranged the marriage, told her to accept being beaten and not shame her family by getting a divorce. In therapy sessions, she said that she’d felt completely trapped during this time.
If she ever spoke out, she was silenced. If she ever stood up for herself, she could be slapped and punched in front of her son. Sama could only endure so much and, in 2018, she escaped knowing that by doing so she could be murdered.
Arrival in Scotland: a year for Sama to be with her son again
Arriving in Scotland was a huge turning point. However, arriving here wasn’t the end of her problems. Her nine-year-old son was still in Iraq, waiting on Sama’s family reunion application to be able to join her. She had to wait over a year for her interview, leading to high anxiety levels, which required additional therapy sessions and support from Freedom from Torture. It took another year for the Home Office to get back to her. But when they finally did, it was with good news – her claims had been successful.
Fast forward to today and I’m delighted to see the positive changes in Sama. She has grown in confidence, has gained valuable insights into Scottish life and, most crucially, she has been reunited with her son. This was very moving for me to witness. I even helped her order things that her son would need when he arrived, like Spider-Man bedding.
As the day of his arrival approached, Sama couldn’t contain her excitement. At the airport, she hugged and kissed him. She held his hand during the entire taxi ride home, savouring every moment like a dream she never wanted to wake up from.
A week later, she brought him to our Burns Night event, where he proudly wore a Kurdish traditional costume. We taught him the traditional Scottish Ceilidh dance, and I supported him with the process of enrolling him in school. The journey was marked with joy, love, and the resilience to overcome the challenges of separation and displacement.
Progress beyond Sama’s personal growth at Freedom from Torture
At Freedom from Torture, Sama’s progress extends beyond her personal growth. She also became an integral part of our Women Together group, who meet to share stories, learn new skills, and support one another to gain control of their lives.
In this environment, Sama has been able to be herself, surrounded by women who, like her, have experienced violence. She also joined our art classes to learn English, further demonstrating her commitment to self-improvement and integration into her new life.
It has been incredibly rewarding witnessing Sama’s transformation and the positive impact she’s had on our community. Her frequent expression of gratitude, saying that she knocked on the right door when she came to us, truly warms our hearts. It’s a testament to the vital impact that our therapy and support have had on her life and, in many ways, is what the festive season urges us to act and reflect on. We’re privileged to have been able to assist her on her journey towards healing and growth, as well as the many other survivors who, like Sama, have endured intense traumas.
Freedom from Torture Christmas care boxes
Every year, Freedom from Torture sends out Christmas Care Boxes, which Sama received when she arrived. These gifts, containing warm clothing and messages of support, go beyond material items. They represent a gesture of care, empathy, and support during a time that can be emotionally challenging for many. Sama, along with some of our other clients, expressed immense gratitude and joy upon receiving their Christmas box. It was only small, but reminded her that she had a big support system and a welcoming community that cared about her happiness and recovery. This is something to be cherished.