Fatouma Zahle Said in her tent in Markazi camp in Djibouti. Photo: Klaus Bo / Danish Refugee Council

Half the wedding party were killed

Fatouma Zahle Said fled with her family from Yemen after a wedding party they were attending was bombed. Today she lives in a refugee camp in Djibouti and has received help from the Danish Refugee Council, so she can start a small business where she makes handbags, which she then sells in the city.
 
 

20.09.16

"War," she says and points to the sky.

The war is the reason Fatouma Zahle Said is where she is. A tent she shares with 14 family members in Markazi refugee camp in Djibouti.

"We were at a wedding," she says and smiles.

It was supposed to last five days. Five days of festivities and a celebration of one of the happiest moments in life. But it did not turn out that way.

"One morning at around nine we were preparing breakfast and lunch for the celebrations that day. Some of the women were also painting henna tattoos. But at nine o'clock the airplane came. They first fired at the place, where the men were. Then two rockets hit the place, the women were."

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Fatouma has stopped smiling, as she continues the story.

"Five of the ones who died, were only 15 year old boys," she says.

65 of the 150 wedding guests lost their lives, Fatouma says. That was the moment, her family decided to leave Yemen.

Happy to be alive

In Djibouti, the family was placed in Markazi refugee camp by UNHCR. It has now been their home for 14 months. The camp which has around 1,300 residents is situated on a barren plain and strong wind sweeps through it. On this day the temperature is around 46 degrees Celsius and the wind feel like it comes straight from a dove.

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But Fatouma does not complain.

"By the grace of God, we are now happy. At home our lives were in danger. Here is peace," she says.

The family survives on the rations they are given by the UN's food program, WFP. But through a grant from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Fatouma has been given the opportunity to start a business in which she makes handbags that she sells in Djibouti’s capital, Djibouti Ville. She proudly presents her creations.

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"The help from DRC has changed our lives. Now we can afford to buy vegetables," she says smiling.  

Fatouma does not know when she will be able to go home. But she prays that the day will come soon.

Now she lives one day at a time and is looking forward to her son’s wedding in a month’s time. This time in safety.