There are now days when Ms. Hussein has to force herself to keep everything inside until her children leave the house — and only then does she let herself sob, she said. Bureen is in sixth grade, Ms. Ali attends a technical institute (although unpaid tuition has cast doubt on her academic status), and Abdulrahman also watches classes.
The family first attempted to flee Iraq in 2015.
That year, Mrs. Hussein left her home to pay smugglers who took her and her children across European borders for four months, encountering obstacles that seemed straight out of a movie. In a forest near the Bulgarian-Greek border, they said, their group was threatened by a large bear while their hash-smoking Afghan guide slept.
After the family finally arrived in Germany, they spent five months in a detention center waiting for the decision on their asylum case. But home had not lost its appeal.
Mrs. Hussein’s father was ill. Her youngest son missed his own father. And she thought there was a chance that her ex-husband would come back to her.
So Mrs. Hussein asked Germany to deport them.
“Bria told me I destroyed their lives,” she said earlier this week. She said, ‘You brought us back from Germany’ – and she’s right. I always try to escape that, but I can’t.”
As she wiped her tears, Mrs. Ali, her daughter, tried to comfort her.
In their rented apartment in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, the living room was bare except for a beige sofa and a thin carpet that curled up at the edges.
That was more comfort than they enjoyed in the detention center in Germany six years ago, when they slept on a bare floor without pillows and blankets, although Mrs Ali said she had been happy.