Hadil was only 16 when she had her first child. Illustration: Baptist Condominas

Hadil was only 16 when she had her first child. Illustration: Baptist Condominas

'I realized I was a child about to have a child'

Motherhood in exile (1/3)

Julia Dumont
By Published on : 2020/01/03 Latest update : 2020/01/17
Many young women embark on dangerous migration journeys. Some of them become mothers along the way. InfoMigrants spoke to a few of these new mothers about their experiences. Hadil fled Syria with her husband. Today, she is a refugee in France; not even 20 yet, she already is the mother of two little girls.
Hadil was only 16 when she had her first child | Illustration: Baptist Condominas
Mother and child - in one
Hadil was only 16 when she had her first child | Illustration: Baptist Condominas

The walls of the small house in Lisses are still completely bare apart from the two portraits on the wall above the sofa. The pictures show Hadil and he husband Adel on their wedding day. Hadil is dressed all in white and wearing heavy makeup that makes her look much older than she really is. 

This is where Hadil and Adel have been living for the past few months with their two daughters, Berevan, who is almost 4 years old, and Sham, 6 months. Hadil herself only turned 19 a few months ago, and her second baby was born shortly afterwards. With her thick brown hair, her long red jacket and her striped shirt, she seems to still be planted in adolescence with one foot, even though she has been a mommy for several years now.

Little Berevan was born in July 2016 -- when the two young parents had been living in France for less than a year. Hadil and Adel got married before arriving in France, in the Domiz refugee camp in Dohuk, northern Iraq. The two had settled there with their relatives after fleeing the war in Syria.

When Hadil got pregnant, she was 16 years old and going to school in Juvisy-sur-Orge (Essonne). The couple were being hosted by a French couple who lived in the same town. "I realize today that I was a child about to have a child," Hadil says with a wry smile.

Hadil shares her life as a young mother with her relatives on social media | Illustration: Baptist Condominas
Away from home
Hadil shares her life as a young mother with her relatives on social media | Illustration: Baptist Condominas

Although Hadil had always wanted to have children, she did not necessarily envision becoming a mother so far from her family and her country. "When I found out I was pregnant with Berevan, I was a little sad that we weren't at home... I was uncomfortable being in an apartment that wasn't ours. I thought my daughter was going to grow up in a family that wasn't hers," the young mother recalls.

Thanks to social media, Hadil remains in regular contact with her mother, whom she sends lots of pictures of her children. But the distance is still emotionally challenging for the family, which is why Hadil didn't tell her mother that for her second delivery she had to go to the hospital by herself. Adel had to stay at home and take care of their eldest daughter while she giving birth.

"It would have made her really sad, she would have cried to know that I went through that alone. But everything went very well at the hospital, a midwife stayed with me the whole time," Hadil says.

Despite the sadness of having to live in exile far away from home, Hadil says she is "relieved" that her daughters were born in France. While she says she is raising her children in the same way she would if she were living in Syria, she knows that being able to go to school will make the difference between the education she received and the one she will be able to give her daughters. 

"Back home, it wasn't safe so we couldn't study. Here, their future is ensured. I know they will be able to study and work."

Neither Hadil nor Adel have been able to complete their education, as they belong to the Kurdish Maktoumi tribe, which is subject to a great deal of discrimination in Syria. This does not deter the young woman from having big dreams: "One day, I would like to become an engineer, build all kinds of buildings. I know that very few women do that job, and besides, I'm a Maktoum, so it's just a dream for me," she says.

Since Berevan started nursery school, Hadil has met a lot of new people | Illustration: Baptist Condominas
Integration through nursery school
Since Berevan started nursery school, Hadil has met a lot of new people | Illustration: Baptist Condominas

For several months now, little Berevan has been going to preschool and is now starting to speak a few words of French. Hadil has already noted her daughter's progress, as well as also her own: Every day, at the end of the afternoon, she picks Berevan up from preschool, where she gets to practice her French with the nursery teachers and some of the other parents.

Hadil admits that it's her her children who help her integrate, even if she still feels like she "knows no one" in Lisses.

When the new school year starts, Berevan will be starting kindergarten. Hadil hopes by then to have secured a daycare spot for Sham, her youngest daughter, so that she will have time to take an intensive French course, which is an essential requirement for finding work and integrating fully.

Hadil and Adel told the story of their migration in the 2018 book "We just want to live" (published in French by Flammarion).

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