In an important Iraqi city near where Du’aa was publically murdered, and where we received such a warm reception by the provincial Governor and his close aides, twelve teen-aged women are hiding in a secret shelter.

One of the residents, just 16 years old, was forced by her family to marry a much older man. While she was shopping one day, she bumped into a boy she used to have a crush on. Relatives who saw them conversing jumped to the conclusion that the couple had intentionally arranged a rendezvous at the market. The family members immediately abducted the two and drove them to a desolate area. The girl’s nose was viciously cut off and one of the boy’s ears was severed. Fearing that more was to come, the young woman went into hiding.

Another girl at the shelter had been ordered by her father to marry one of his older business colleagues. She flatly refused, as she had recently fallen in love with a boy her own age. Her father, humiliated and infuriated by her opposition, sent her away to live with her grandmother. The young girl would soon learn that her father and brother then murdered her boyfriend. Upon hearing that they were planning to kill her next, she, too, secreted away to an underground life, imprisoned by the ‘honor’ required of families in Northern Iraq.

The further ten stories of these women huddled together in seclusion are very similar, as are those of others concealed in safe houses around the city – terrified girls and young women who, in fear of savage deaths at the hands of their own families, ran away to escape execution. Some had simply fallen in love. Some refused to be mutilated through female circumcision. Others refused to marry men three times their age. A few found themselves pregnant after relationships with men who promised to marry them. And others were raped…an unforgivable defilement that often leads to death.

A good number of the children we will be rescuing in this city will no doubt include the abandoned babies of such women.

As we reach out and take in discarded children from Iraqi hospitals and street corners, we will think of these young girls who live in constant trepidation, especially those who gave up their children in order to breathe the air of another day.

Both choices must have seemed unbearably cruel to these frightened new mothers: Abandon your little baby and survive in secrecy, or keep the child and eventually be exposed and murdered.

…Either way, we are left with an orphan.