Iraqi Kurdish family mourns death of Channel shipwreck victim
Maryam Nuri Hama Amin, 24, was among 27 people who died this week trying to cross to the UK from France.
A visitor comforts the mother of Maryam Nuri as she breaks down crying, in Erbil, Iraq [Azad Lashkari/Reuters]
28 Nov 2021
In a simple house in northeastern Iraq, the parents of 24-year-old Maryam Nuri Hama Amin are mourning the loss of their daughter who drowned trying to reach her fiance in the United Kingdom.
“She wanted a better life,” her father, Nuri Hama Amin, said, still reeling from shock, just days after his daughter vanished into the freezing waters of the Channel between France and England.
“But she ended up in the sea.”
Maryam – “Baran” to her family, a name meaning “rain” in Kurdish – was one of 27 people who died on Wednesday when their inflatable boat sank off the French port of Calais. She is the first victim to be identified.
On Sunday, her family held a wake for Baran in Soran, a town in the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region, some 3,700km (2,300 miles) from where she died. Her body has not yet reached Iraq, pending legal issues, relatives said.
“We have no information on the smugglers,” her father said, speaking from the family home. “Their promises turned out to be lies.”
Portraits of Iraqi Kurdish migrant Maryam Nuri Hama Amin and her fiance are placed in her bedroom during a condolence ceremony following her death [Safin Hamed/AFP]
Maryam was desperate to join her fiance, Karzan, also from the region, but who had settled in the UK.
Karzan had tried several times to obtain a visa for her but was not successful.
“The route is dangerous. My daughter was engaged and she wanted to be with her fiance. They chose Britain because it’s a good place, it’s secure. People go there for better opportunities but it was God’s fate it didn’t work out,” her father said, speaking to British Sky News.
“She sank in the sea and passed away before arriving there.”
Karzan was on the phone with her as she set out onto the dangerous waters from France – and was the one who called the family in Iraq to tell them she died, her cousin, Kafan Omar, said.
Shortly before she left France, her father had spoken to her for hours on the phone.
“She was very happy, she was relaxed,” he said. “She was in a hotel in France, we spoke until eight in the morning.”
Iraqi Kurd Nuri Hama Amin, the father of Maryam, receives condolences in Soran, Iraq [Safin Hamed/AFP]
Since the shipwreck, the bodies of the passengers have been held in a morgue in France. Officially, nothing has been released about the identities and nationalities of the 17 men, seven women and three minors.
But at Maryam’s home, some 100 relatives gathered to offer their condolences for her death.
On Saturday, dozens of men, many dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes, sat reciting a prayer.
Close by, under the shelter of a large tent, women in black robes sat in mourning. Maryam’s mother was too grief-stricken to speak.
Men attend a condolence ceremony for Maryam Nuri Hama Amin in the Kurdish town of Soran, Iraq [Safin Hamed/AFP]
Maryam’s family described her as smart, successful and determined. She had wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology.
In Maryam’s room, above the bed, two photos show the young woman and her fiance at their engagement. A picture shows her in a traditional dress decorated with embroidery, with a tiara over an elaborate hairstyle. A bouquet of white roses lies on her bed.
Women stand in the bedroom of Iraqi Kurd Maryam Nuri Hama Amin [Safin Hamed/AFP]
Baran’s cousin described the relationship between Maryam and her fiance as being “like love birds”.
“They loved each other, they were so respectful to each other,” Iman Hassan said, speaking to Sky News from Soran.
Her cousin, Kafan Omar, said she had left home nearly a month before.
“She got a work visa and went to Italy, and then to France,” he said. “We had tried many times to send her to Britain to join her fiance, but without success.”
Maryam was just one of thousands of young hopefuls from the region who have left home in recent months.
Many have been stuck on the border with Belarus in a bid to cross into Poland and the European Union. Some have returned on repatriation flights, battered by their freezing ordeal.
A large number says they have spent their savings, sold valuables and even taken loans to escape economic hardship in Iraq and start a new life.
Portraits and flowers are placed in the bedroom of Maryam Nuri Hama Amin during a condolence ceremony in Soran, Iraq [Safin Hamed/AFP]
Kermaj Ezzat, a close relative of the family, said young people in the region were mainly leaving because of its “instability”. He denounced the policies blocking their travel.
“These countries have closed their borders to young people who dream of a better future,” he said.
Maryam’s father gave a message to others wanting to head west.
“I call on young people not to emigrate and to endure the difficulties here, rather than sacrifice their lives to reach Europe,” he pleaded.