Love from Behind Bars

Helloooo to World’s Most Loyal Blog Readers!!Baashiiii?*

The sweet H.M. and I (A.S. too) have started a research in the women’s prison in Erbil. Lucky me (I’m not being sarcastic. I mean it) is assigned to do the interviews, field work and closely studying individual cases. What can I say? I won’t give any specific details because the findings are indeed very interesting so far. But who would have thought my trips to the prison would also take me jewelry shopping?!

A piece handmade by one of the prisoner
Put the findings aside for now. At the prison, I realized many of the younger women I was sitting with had handmade jewelry on. In those moments when they began crying, feeling upset, I would draw their attention to some of the beautiful little pieces they had either on their fingers, little hair clips or necklaces. I came to know that some of the inmates are making a lot of handmade goods, including jewelry. How else would they spend their time?
Some of the purchases I made from one of the inmates

After an intense Thursday morning, I spoke to the director, and managed to push through my case that I must buy some of the handmade treasures in support of the women. She made a phone call, within two minutes a very humble, skinny, pale and blue-eyed woman came in with a plastic bag in her hand. She was one of the inmates who has a sentence of more than just a few years. I still, to this second, don’t understand how much jewelry was put into that small plastic bag– over 450 pieces. Let’s say 500!

So, I chose some little bits and pieces, some for me, others I will put away to give to special friends. Some of the pieces take more than a few hours to make, yet the cost she was asking for was incredibly cheap — ranging from 2 IQD to 4000 (basically $1.50 to less than $3.50). Considering the monthly wages they receive selling their jewelry is not only encouraging them to continue their handmade work, but also some extra income which they can spend or save.

Forget the gold belt on Jli Kurdi (Kurdish clothes) this is too pretty!

When you can look at each piece, all different in size and colors, you can’t help but think: “The girl who did this, where was she sitting, what was she thinking as she put in the individual beads? Who was she thinking of? What are her dreams? What is her story?” And that’s the beauty of these pieces. But I am sure each one is made with love, with lots of patience and sometimes made with feelings of regret.

Loved how she had used the colors in this one (it can be both a necklace or a bracelet)
Just to imagine all these beads were put through the thread by hand…
For younger children perhaps
I LOVED this one!
Perhaps a necklace?

If you are in Erbil and you wish to make purchases drop me an email, and I will make sure you get your goods. They make thoughtful gifts and at the same time the money is going to someone who can really use.

For those of you (I hope none) who are now thinking “I am not supporting criminals by buying their products” be sure, most–not all– are victims themselves victims of some of the norms in our society. Not every woman behind bars in a prison is a bad person. Be sure about that.

p.s. For those waiting there is a post coming up on Volunteering Ideas in Erbil and another answering some questions that I have gathered from recent emails on visiting Kurdistan. Stay tuned Loyal Readers!

* Are you well?

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