Mosul’s traumatized children: ‘I am like my old self. What I was before ISIS came’
Rasha and her father Halif live in a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq. They are originally from Mosul but fled the city when Rasha’s uncle was killed and the fighting between the Islamic State group (ISIS) and the Iraqi forces became too intense. After they arrived in Hassansham camp (near the city of Erbil) in March 2017, Rasha was constantly scared as a result of the traumatic events she had witnessed in Mosul. Rasha received support from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) psychologists to manage and overcome her fear. This is Rasha and Halif’s stories:
“ISIS group tried to kill us so we had to flee [Mosul]. Then we came to Hassansham (camp). ISIS brought destruction with them and it was the worst period of my life. We were under siege from all sides. It was a hard life. No movement, no trade. We didn’t have the right to work or do business. There was no medication.
They (ISIS) cut external telephone lines and using mobile phones was forbidden. And if you had a sim card, they would have killed you. There was no gas and no petrol and people were cooking with wood. Some people suffered more than others, but in general, it was a horrible life.
When the west Mosul battle started, the children were terrorised. Everyone was shooting. People died in the streets and many families died during the bombing. Most of the casualties were children and women. You didn’t know if you would die in an hour, in a minute, today, tomorrow.
MSF visited our tent (in Hassansham camp). I was happy they helped my daughters. I thank MSF and the doctor for their time with my daughters. They kept my children away from fear. My children would recall fear from the past – the fear of ISIS and of displacement. But with the care of the doctors, they were not scared anymore.
It’s been one year since we’ve been in the camp. We don’t know what our destiny is. Me and all the people in Mosul and Iraq don’t have any hope.”
“My name is Rasha and I was born in 2007. In school I like English. I love it. It’s the best thing for me. And I also like drawing and I like to play, and I like sport games. And I also like football.
When I grow up I would like to become a translator because I like to help people. If people don’t know how to speak English, I will translate for them. When I become a translator, people will talk in Arabic with me and I will talk in English.
And I would also like to become a doctor. I like treating people. I would like them to get better, and also for them to be happy.
During ISIS group, we were in Tal al-Ruman neighbourhood (in Mosul). Bullets and shrapnel came into our house and our neighbour’s (house). My mother was afraid for us so we went to my uncle’s house. We stayed the night with them. The next day, we wanted to go to another house.
My father told my big uncle (Ali) that he would go out from the main door that led to a side alley, and my uncle said that he would go out the small door that led to the main street. I was with my father and my little brother Musad. When we went out of the main door, a sniper started shooting at us. We hid in the kitchen. Then my father yelled “Ali Ali Ali”. Ali didn’t answer. My father went out and saw my uncle dead near the car. Then I was shocked and I got traumatized.
My life in the camp is good and I visit MSF. MSF treated me. And now I’m better. I was cured from the fear I felt because of what I saw during ISIS. I am like my old self. What I was before ISIS came.”
Sacha Myers is the Field Communication Coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Iraq. Twitter account: @sacha_myers