A City in Ruins
On July 10 2017, the Iraqi government declared that Mosul had finally been liberated after three years of Islamic State control. For many, however, liberation is not enough of a cause for celebration.
The offensive to take back control of Mosul started last October and the fighting was messy. Along with fighting on the ground and missiles from the sky, Islamic State set booby traps and explosives.
More than a million people are estimated to have fled in total – many don’t have a home left standing to return to.
We met Marwa, who lives in Mosul and works with ShelterBox to support people left without a house, or city, to call home.
Marwa works for our partners on the ground in Iraq. The local team members, just like Marwa, are able to reach the places we can’t.
As a resident of Mosul, she has seen the damage done by Islamic State, and the battle to liberate the city.
persevering, despite islamic state
Marwa said: ‘I was born in Mosul, but I spent a large part of my life in the Hamdaniyah district of Iraq. That was where I was when Islamic State came.
‘There are two sides to life, and so there are two sides to my story. On one side, there are beautiful things like my family and my childhood, and on the other side, there are the dark times.
‘I grew up in a beautiful Muslim family. I had three sisters and a little brother. My parents were very supportive of all their children, they wanted us all to be educated. I have a Bachelor in Mathematics and was going to do a Masters to become a teacher when Islamic State came.
‘Although my parents loved all of us very much, the entire family cherished our little brother. He brought a lot of pride to us all and he was my best friend.
‘After Islamic State arrived in Hamdaniyah, they targeted men, especially those associated with the military. In June 2014, my brother was shot because he was friends with soldiers. It was very difficult for my family to go on after that.’
15 minutes to leave
‘Later, Islamic State took our family home. They came one day and gave us 15 minutes to take our belongings and leave. The most important thing for me was that I took my certificates, ID and family pictures. But that wasn’t enough, we needed a roof and we needed things to live.
‘We didn’t know where to go, so we moved back to East Mosul where we had some relatives. We found the house that my family and I live in now and settled there because it was intact and furnished.
‘Islamic State took everything from us when they took my brother and then our home. Everything we owned was in the house. We had to go back to Mosul.
Even now, the military is using our old house and we cannot return.
‘Living in Mosul has been very difficult, but for so long Islamic State wouldn’t let us leave. We were stuck in the city, and we didn’t know where else to go. We had nothing but the belongings left in the house we moved into.
We have no men left in the family
‘They took my father from us because he publicly disagreed with Islamic State. My husband had left the country too, which meant that we didn’t have any more men in the family. We didn’t feel safe doing anything and moving anywhere.’
Like morning turning into night
‘Mosul was a beautiful place before Islamic State came. There was such a nice atmosphere in the city. Mosul was a very diverse place, people from different religions got along and people were friendly and trusting.
I had just finished my studies when Islamic State took over. I had a very dynamic social life, I would go on picnics with my friends and family, we would do normal things together.
‘The best way to describe the difference when Islamic State took hold of Mosul is to picture an early morning suddenly turning into night.
No one would go outside anymore, people stopped trusting each other, the city felt empty. The atmosphere that once was so nice turned so dark.
‘At the beginning, Daesh would only target men and hurt many families by punishing men. But rapidly they created female groups that would have for sole purpose to monitor and punish the women of Mosul. They wouldn’t let us go.’
One of the people we’ve recently supported in Iraq.
I wanted to help people
‘I have been an aid worker for two months. I had never worked in the humanitarian sector before but I wanted to help people, starting with my family.
I wanted to have money to be able to care for my mother, my daughter and my sister. And I felt that I would relate and understand the struggles of the people we work with every day. I know what it is like.
‘I am a distribution officer and do registration during distributions of aid. I like that I work directly in contact with people. I feel like you need self-confidence to do this job, and I am gaining more self-confidence by working in this role.
‘To me, the items we distribute thanks to ShelterBox are critical – they are even the most important I would say. People need a roof and people need to be able to cook their own food and to have basic things to meet their needs.’
Our night with ShelterBox is better
People at the distributions always say very positive things about ShelterBox items.
They say “Our night with ShelterBox is better” because of the items provided, especially the mattresses. Sometimes they use plywood and put the mattress on top outside to sleep under the stars.
‘I feel proud of my work and I love it – I want to continue working in this field for a while.
‘I would like to leave Mosul, go anywhere else but just leave Mosul – maybe Iraq even. I don’t feel safe here anymore.
‘I still want to become a teacher eventually, but then sometimes I wonder “What if I have to teach their children? Islamic State, I mean…”.
‘As a child, I never imagined something like this could happen – I am heartbroken and afraid about the future.
‘At the same time, I hope the best for my family and my daughter. I will support her to get an education. She can do anything she would like when she grows up, as long as she gets an education.’