Former child bride designed her escape from Iraq

Nadia Saeed loves New Zealand and is very thankful for her now "amazing life".
MAHVASH ALI/FAIRFAX NZ

Nadia Saeed loves New Zealand and is very thankful for her now "amazing life".

At 13, her step mother married her off to a man twice her age.

Eleven years and two sons later Iraqi-born Nadia Saeed ended her marriage and began her dream career as a police officer in Baghdad. Two years later she was captured, for ransom, by the local militia.

"My father had to sell one of his cars to pay the amount, it was a lot of money," she recalls. 

Nadia Saeed in her Iraqi police uniform.
supplied

Nadia Saeed in her Iraqi police uniform.

It was in 2008, after her brother died in sectarian violence, that Saeed decided it was time to leave Iraq. Insurgents placed a bomb under his car, the explosive device went off as soon as he turned on the ignition - killing him instantly. 

"It took me time to collect the money. It is impossible to save there. But I saved little by little until I had enough to leave. I wanted to go to Australia."

In 2010 she was all alone when she boarded a plane from the Iraqi capital to Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Nadia Saeed says she wants to be one of New Zealand's best known fashion designers.
MAHVASH ALI/FAIRFAX NZ

Nadia Saeed says she wants to be one of New Zealand's best known fashion designers.

There, she paid $3000 to get on a fishing boat to reach Indonesia.  

"I was in Indonesia for more than two years. I paid $6000 to a group of men who said they would smuggle me to Australia, they just ran away with my money."

Following that, Saeed made several dangerous, but unsuccessful attempts, to get to what she thought was her final destination. 

Nadia Saeed with her Resene design
SUPPLIED

Nadia Saeed with her Resene design

"One time we were in a tiny boat and there were 70 people on it. We got caught in storm. I thought it was time to die, but we survived, I don't know how."

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The desperate asylum seeker was on her fourth attempt to reach Australia when Indonesian police arrested her and several others on a small fishing vessel in international waters.

From there, Saeed was taken to a detention centre in Tanjung Pinang City and finally to another one in Medan. In 2012, she was granted a refugee visa to New Zealand and made her journey home to Auckland. 

Many people ask Nadia what keeps her going.
Mahvash Ali

Many people ask Nadia what keeps her going.

"I kept trying to escape because it is horrible. Your mind gets tired thinking about the future and what will happen. It is not nice."

Saeed is now a proud west Aucklander and wants to be New Zealand's top fashion designer.

At 36, she decided to enrol in a two-year course at New Zealand Fashion Tech. Her diploma finishes at the end of this year. 

"When I am done, I want to be the best in the fashion industry. I knew nothing about sewing clothes in Iraq, but now I am designing them."

One of Saeed's designs was recently showcased as part of a project called Resene NZ Fashion Tech Colour of Fashion.

She picked a shade called Pioneer Red for her creation. The hue, she says, represents her own emotions - "excitement, fear, hope and frustration".

The design at the front of her dress symbolises her journey. A ladder depicting her climb to freedom.

She was reunited with her sons in 2013. Both are now grown up and working, they live on their own in Mount Albert.

 

 

 - Stuff

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