Iraqi refugees living in Jordan are being given a sense of dignity through a clothing boutique, in the capital Amman, which 'sells' second hand clothing in a bid to help refugees get back to normal life.
Set up by local Christians in partnership with Open Doors, the second hand clothing boutique looks and feels like any ordinary clothing shop in the Middle East. The refugee 'shoppers' lost everything when they fled IS but here they have a safe space. "Just like in a real boutique they can come here to shop, to choose the clothes they really like, to try them on and to shop with dignity," said Lara, who works in the boutique. "This is a safe place for them where they can shop, have a good time and feel like a normal member of society again."
The only difference from a conventional shop is that the refuges do not have to pay for the items they get. Each family is given coupons based on their situation and family size. With the coupons they 'pay' for the clothes. Lara says being able to make transactions also helps them to feel human and accepted again.
Many refugees who travel to Jordan plan to migrate to other countries. But the process can take years. As a refugee in Jordan you do not have the right to work. Most families don't have an income, clothes or other basics. "Refugees need to eat, to dress and to have their basic needs cared for while they wait for their resettlement," said Lara. Often when people donate clothes to refugees they give them in big bin bags. They are unwashed, stained or damaged. "For many Iraqi refugees, having fled from good families and good situations, that is a shameful situation. They find it hard to accept the clothes that way," said Lara. That's why the boutique is important. "This way, we can help to restore the dignity that was taken from them."
All the clothes in the boutique are donated by people in Jordan. "We wash or dry-clean the good clothes and hang them here," said Lara. "There are pants, skirts, bags and boots, but also small stuff like accessories. All presented in a proper way."
Open Doors has launched Hope for the Middle East, a seven year campaign uniting the global church to ensure every person in the Middle East, no matter what their faith, has a home, a future and a voice. As part of this, Open Doors is asking people to sign the Hope for the Middle East petition, which will be presented to the UN on 11 December 2017.
Jordan is number 27 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. Jordan has long been one of the Middle East's more liberal countries for religious freedom, but the tide is turning for Christians. Expat Christians and historical Christian communities are relatively free - as long as they do not evangelise Muslims. But believers from Muslim backgrounds face serious oppression from local authorities, non-Christian religious leaders and even their own families. The large number of Muslim refugees from Syria and Iraq, combined with the rise of radical Islam, is also putting increasing pressure on Christians.
Lara sorts clothes and accessories at the boutique which was set up to give dignity to Iraqi refugees.