But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.
Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.
As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.
“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.