In a simple home in northeastern Iraq, the parents of 24-year-old Maryam Nouri Hama Amin mourn the loss of their daughter who drowned while trying to reach her fiancée in the UK.
“She wanted a better life,” said her father, Nuri Hama Amin, still in shock, just days after his daughter disappeared into the frigid waters of the Channel between France and England.
“But she ended up at sea.”
Maryam – her family’s “Baran,” a name meaning “rain” in Kurdish – was one of 27 people who died Wednesday when their rubber-stamped dinghy sank off the French port of Calais. She was the first victim identified.
On Sunday, her family woke up to Baran in Soran, a town in the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) from where she died. Her relatives said her body has not yet arrived in Iraq, pending legal cases.
“We have no information about the smugglers,” her father said from the family home. “Their promises turned out to be lies.”
Maryam was eager to join her fiancé, Karzan, also from the region, but had settled in the UK.
Karzan tried several times to obtain a visa for her, but it was unsuccessful.
“The road is dangerous. My daughter was engaged and wanted to be with her fiancé. They chose Britain because it was a good and safe place. People go there in search of better opportunities, but God’s fate did not work out,” her father said, speaking to Britain’s Sky News.
“She sank at sea and died before she got there.”
Her cousin Kavan Omar said Karzan was on the phone with her when she was cruising in the dangerous waters from France – and she was the one who called the family in Iraq to tell them she had died.
Shortly before she left France, her father spoke to her for hours on the phone.
“She was very happy, and she was relieved,” he said. “She was in a hotel in France, we talked until eight in the morning.”
Since the shipwreck, the bodies of the passengers have been held in a mortuary in France. Officially, nothing has been revealed about the identities and nationalities of 17 men, seven women and three minors.
But at Mariam’s home, about 100 of her relatives gathered to pay their respects for her death.
On Saturday, dozens of men, many in traditional Kurdish clothing, sat while praying.
Near a large tent, women in black robes sat in mourning. Mary’s mother was too sad to speak.
Maryam’s family described her as intelligent, successful and assertive. She wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology.
In Maryam’s room, above the bed, two pictures show the young woman and her fiancé during their engagement. A photo shows her in a traditional dress embellished with embroidery, with a tiara over an elaborate hairstyle. On her bed is a bouquet of white roses.
Baran’s cousin described the relationship between Maryam and her fiancée as “like a love bird”.
“They loved each other, and were very respectful of each other,” said Eman Hassan, speaking to Sky News from Soran.
Her cousin, Kavan Omar, said she left the house about a month ago.
“I got a work visa and went to Italy, then to France,” he said. “We have tried many times to send her to Britain to join her fiancé, but to no avail.”
Mariam was just one of thousands of young aspirants in the region who have left their home countries in recent months.
Many were stuck at the border with Belarus in an attempt to cross into Poland and the European Union. Some returned on return trips, affected by the ordeal of the freezing process.
A large number of them say they spent their savings, sold valuables, and even took out loans to escape the economic hardship in Iraq and start a new life.
Kermaj Ezzat, a close relative of the family, said young people in the area are leaving mainly because of the “instability”. He denounced their travel ban policies.
“These countries have closed their borders in the face of young people who dream of a better future,” he said.
Mary’s father gave a message to the others wanting to head west.
“I am calling on young people not to emigrate and endure hardships here, instead of sacrificing their lives to reach Europe,” he pleaded.