"I convinced her to leave. In Dohuk, we can’t live a real life; there is corruption, no work, repression.”

The smuggler had said the car would come in 10 minutes, but Zaid Ramadan had been waiting in the dense forest straddling the Poland-Belarus border for three hours, desperate for signs of headlights in the mist — and a new life in Europe, AP reports.

His pregnant wife Delin shivered under a blanket. She had been against leaving their life in Dohuk, a mountainous province in the northern Kurdish-run region of Iraq. The journey was perilous, expensive and the change too drastic, she told him.

“But I convinced her to leave. In Dohuk, we can’t live a real life; there is corruption, no work, repression,” the 23-year-old said.

The couple were among a disproportionate number of Iraqi migrants, most of them from Iraq’s Kurdish region, who chose to sell their homes, cars and other belongings to pay off smugglers with the hope of reaching the European Union from the Belarusian capital of Minsk — a curious statistic for an oil-rich region seen as the most stable in all of Iraq. But rising unemployment, endemic corruption and a recent economic crisis that slashed state salaries have undermined faith in a decent future for their autonomous region and kindled the desire in many to leave.

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