In a simple house in northeast Iraq, the parents of 24-year-old Maryam Nuri Hama Amin mourn the loss of their daughter who drowned while trying to reach her fiance in the UK.
“She wanted a better life,” said her father, Nuri Hama Amin, still in shock, just days after his daughter disappeared in the frigid waters of the English Channel between France and England.
“But she ended up in the sea.”
Maryam – “Baran” for her family, a name which means “rain” in Kurdish – was one of 27 people who died Wednesday when their inflatable boat sank off the French port of Calais. She is the first identified victim.
On Sunday, her family held a vigil for Baran in Soran, a town in the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, some 3,700 km (2,300 miles) from where she died. His body has yet to reach Iraq, pending legal issues, relatives said.
“We have no information on the smugglers,” said his father, speaking from the family home. “Their promises turned out to be lies. “
Maryam desperately wanted to join her fiancé, Karzan, also from the region, but who had settled in the UK.
Karzan had tried several times to obtain a visa for her, but without success.
“The road is dangerous. My daughter was engaged and she wanted to be with her fiance. They chose Great Britain because it’s a good place for sure. People are going there for better opportunities, but it was God’s fate that it didn’t work out, ”her father said, speaking to British Sky News.
“She sank in the sea and died before she got there.”
Karzan was on the phone with her as she made her way into the dangerous waters from France – and it was she who called the family in Iraq to tell them she was dead, her cousin, Kafan Omar said.
Shortly before she left France, her father had talked to her for hours on the phone.
“She was very happy, she was relaxed,” he said. “She was in a hotel in France, we spoke until eight in the morning.”
Since the sinking, the bodies of the passengers have been held in a morgue in France. Officially, nothing has been revealed on the identity and nationality of the 17 men, seven women and three minors.
But at Maryam’s home, around 100 loved ones gathered to offer their condolences on her death.
On Saturday, dozens of men, many dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes, were sitting reciting a prayer.
Nearby, in the shelter of a large tent, women in black dresses were seated in mourning. Maryam’s mother was too distressed to speak.
Maryam’s family described her as smart, successful and determined. She had wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology.
In Maryam’s bedroom, above the bed, two photos show the young woman and her fiance during their engagement. One photo shows her in a traditional dress decorated with embroidery, with a tiara over an elaborate headdress. A bouquet of white roses rests on her bed.
Baran’s cousin described the relationship between Maryam and her fiance as “like love birds”.
“They loved each other, they were so respectful to each other,” Iman Hassan said, speaking to Sky News from Soran.
Her cousin, Kafan Omar, said she had left home almost a month before.
“She got a work visa and went to Italy, then to France,” he said. “We had tried several times to send her to Britain to join her fiancé, but without success.”
Maryam was just one of thousands of young hopefuls from the region who have left home in recent months.
Many have been stranded at the border with Belarus in an attempt to enter Poland and the European Union. Some returned by repatriation flights, battered by their icy ordeal.
Many say they have spent their savings, sold valuables and even taken out loans to escape Iraq’s economic hardships and start a new life.
Kermaj Ezzat, a close relative of the family, said young people in the area were leaving mainly because of his “instability”. He denounced the policies blocking their movements.
“These countries have closed their borders to young people who dream of a better future,” he said.
Maryam’s father gave a message to others who wanted to head west.
“I call on young people not to emigrate and to endure the difficulties here, rather than sacrifice their lives to reach Europe”, he pleaded.