Daily Telegraph
10 July 2003

THEY paid the ultimate price to flee Saddam Hussein - on a sinking boat off the Indonesian coast, Sondos Ismail saw her three daughters drown in front of her.

Her face, awash with unbearable grief, was the defining image of the Siev X tragedy, which claimed the lives of 350 asylum seekers trying to reach Australian shores in October, 2001.

Now, with a new daughter and a new life in Sydney's southwest, Ms Ismail and her husband Ahmed Alzalimi are trying to rebuild - but the Federal Government wants to send Mr Alzalimi back to Iraq.

The pair were reunited 16 months ago, but now they face being torn apart again.

Ms Ismail, 27, was given a five-year temporary visa, daughter Allaa has been issued with a three-year visa, while Mr Alzalimi has to be out of the country by September.

Mr Alzalimi, 27, said yesterday he feared being forced back to a country still reeling from a war and being separated from his family again.

"I can't imagine the Australian Government would be so heartless as to send me back," he said.

"We regard Australia as the place we hope to die. Our daughters died trying to get here."

Baby Allaa - which translates to "sign from God" - has given the couple new hope.

She has a remarkable resemblance to daughter Fatimah, who was five years old when she drowned with sisters Eman, 8, and Zhra, 6, near the Sunda Strait, off Java, on October 20, 2001.

"I want my family to stay here in Australia," Ms Ismail said.

Muslim community spokesman Keysar Trad said Mr Alzalimi, a qualified teacher, was still searching for work in Australia.

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