This is Rahma’s story. It’s also the story of thousands, yes, thousands of mothers scattered across Mosul.
Rahma’s Life Before ISIS
Rahma is a mother. She loves to read, cook and decorate.
Several years ago, her husband left her and their five children to take another wife. He would send money, he said.
She never heard from him again.
Rahma took on small sewing projects and odd jobs to cover the rent and expenses. When that fell short, Rahma petitioned family members for money to buy food and clothing for her children. Her oldest two children had the beauty and grace of their mother and married quickly. After years of despair, hope was on the horizon. New men would finally provide for the family; the two young men who married her daughters.
They all moved into a bigger yet very modest home. It was a home that was much too small for them, but it was home. The walls of the house seemed alive to her, swelling with laughter and contracting with tension. She was cooking and rearranging old furniture to look new again. It was a beautiful life. Her daughters both had children—two boys. Their fathers were so proud. They celebrated the new lives with parties that lasted until morning.
Then one day they got word that ISIS was closing in on Mosul. Within days the city fell, black ISIS flags covered her neighborhood with suffocating darkness. She remembers watching through curtain-covered windows as ISIS fighters roamed the streets looking for women to rape and children to join their ranks. To keep the babies and small children quiet, she gave them sedatives. They ate very little in those months for fear of being found on a trip to the market. Her new sons joined the army to fight ISIS. They never came back. Their bodies have yet to be found.
Finally, under the cover of the night, Rahma left Mosul with her five children and two grandchildren. They took only what they could carry on their backs. It wasn’t much more than a change of clothes and family jewelry. The babies didn’t even have diapers. Most days Rahma would have been horrified at the thought of them being wet and soiled, but that night she wasn’t. Survival was the most important.
There isn’t much from their escape out of Mosul that she remembers, except for the Iraqi soldiers who grabbed them at the city’s edge.
They were safe.
She could breathe again.
Iraqi soldiers processed and transferred Rahma and her family to an IDP camp several miles from the city. There, they would wait until it was safe to go home.
Life After ISIS
Rahma is home now.
Most of the life she built with her family has been destroyed.
Still, her home is better than most. It is covered in mortar rounds and has a gaping hole in the roof, but they manage. Her babies fill their bellies with cheap snacks from the corner store and orange Fanta. She makes excuses for their poor diet and rotten teeth, but she doesn’t need to say a word.
She is a mother. And she mothers in the MOST difficult of circumstances.
Though her sorrows may be different from others, the desperation she feels each day is not. Rahma and thousands of other women in Mosul live under the overwhelming pressure of surviving, providing and mothering. Most of them feel forgotten. Our heart is to show them that they are not; to show them that they are, in fact, seen, loved and valued. We aim to do this by providing for their basic needs under our Widow’s Storehouse Program. Our desire is to see them thrive as women and mothers—to see them equipped and empowered. We believe they are in a pivotal place to breathe life into the children and orphans in their care.
If given the opportunity, they can be carriers of hope rather than targets of despair.
She loves to read, cook and decorate.
But now she must survive.
Reading, cooking and decorating fell asleep when ISIS came.
Please partner with us as we help create the space to wake up all the things war lulled to sleep —as we watch the women and children of Mosul begin to thrive.
To do so, please visit our GoFundMe for women like Rahma