Investigation: Dolfan Brawrry and Mosul Investigative Team.
It was a rather stressful evening for Shaymaa (20 years), when she received a short telephone call that stifled her intermittent screams. Having been overwhelmed by a hysteric wave, her fist reached her head and she began tearing out several tresses from her hair and slapping her face. Her sister ‘Laila’ hugged her strongly and began wiping her teary eyes, but she could do nothing to curb her panic. All of a sudden, she stopped yelling and began staring at her sister with tears dropping from her eyes, saying repeatedly “Nothing can stop that pain….. Nothing can ever wash all such impurity”.
And after moments of deadly silence, she stretched herself on the floor near ‘Laila’, while looking with half closed eyes at her younger sister ‘Maha’, who was standing at the corner of the hall, looking frozen like a wax statue. All of a sudden, Shaymaa rushed into a small room at the corner of the family house, which was badly demolished by war projectiles. She locked herself into the room, and after a few minutes of indistinct speech coupled with tears, she started yelling and thick black smoke began to come out from under the door mixed with the smell of her scorched body.
While trembling and calling her sister, Laila managed at last to break open the wooden door of the room. Shaymaa was seen lying helplessly with fire scorching what remained from her shabby clothing. Fire reached everything in the room even her mother’s pictures, and a small box containing what was left for the family. What is worse is that one of this family’s sons had been joining for years the so-called ‘ISII Organization’, known in Arabic as ‘Daesh’, when the city of Mosul was under their strict control. Now they are chased, discarded and vulnerable to all forms of exploitation after the withdrawal of the organization’s fighters. That very same situation is applied to many other disadvantaged families, whose sons pledged their loyalty to ‘Daesh’, according to what is mentioned by one of their relations.
Two days later, ‘Shaymaa’ met her tragic end at Mosul hospital, being affected by burns of the fourth degree. “She was sexually abused by one of her closest relations, and after failing to find herself a way of salvation, she chose to take her own life, leaving a family with two children with no one to support them. They are threatened with poverty, exploitation, and social stigma besides being chased by the procedures of the security apparatuses.”, said a civil activist who had been following their extremely difficult circumstances, hoping to offer them any help, amid an atmosphere of secrecy, horror and shock.
‘Laila’ closed her eyes, as if she was trying to remember the last moments of her sister’s life, and said,” We noticed Shayma’s disappearance at nighttimes, and were surprised to find her sitting on the edge of our mother’s stone grave at the cemetery located near our house. She was heard speaking to the soul of her mother while rummaging in the dust with her bare hands, and screaming whilst calling her dead mother to wake up and watch her uncle abusing her sexually. “Wake up and see what your shameful brother is doing with me because of your impious undutiful son.”
Shaymaa, whose beauty withered during the years Ninwa was under the control of the Islamic Organization (2014-2017), and then during the liberation battles which devastated most of the adjacent houses and crooked narrow alleys of their old city. She found herself after the death of her father and the murder of her brother in one of the organization’s battles, responsible for supporting her family, while being exposed to all inhuman forms of social ostracism, and sexual abuse after the Iraqi forces had restored the city.
An activist working in Mosul since its liberation, who preferred not mention neither her name nor her workplace says, “Shaymaa was exposed to the cruelest forms of exploitation, including sexual abuse by one of her closest relations, that is her uncle, who is working with one of the security formations. That happened when she went to seek his help. She was also abused by elements affiliated to different security apparatuses, which control Ninwa, because of her murdered brother’s loyalty to ‘Daesh’.
The activist expressed her deep pain for failing to rescue Shaymaa. “Her family came back home after a period of immigration, lest they would be held in custody in isolation camps, which were set up by the government for the families of the organization’s fighters. They found themselves an easy target of exploitation in a hostile environment, simply because many of the inhabitants in their neighborhood had suffered badly from her brother’s acts and accordingly they regarded all the members of her family as criminals, not guiltless victims”, the activist added.
As a result of war, around 40% of Mosul’s districts were partially or totally devastated. Now the city is surrounded by six makeshift camps sheltering a few thousands from the organization fighters’ families. There is an isolation camp for the housing of the organization’s families, who are suffering from difficult living conditions described by some activists as ‘catastrophic’. They are semi- segregated and neither the government of Iraq nor the local or the international organizations have a clear vision of how to deal with them, taking into considerable account the existence of a large number of widows and orphans who are now growing in an environment contaminated with exploitation, bereavement, social detachment and security pressure.
Dozens of Exploitation Cases
The investigation team monitored in some of these encampments and in some of Mosul’s districts over 16 sexual abuse cases in the course of three months of investigation. They documented double that number through some stories told by refugees close to the sexual victims. This is also consolidated by testimonies given by security men, who had attempted to prevent several attacks.
‘Huda’, who has not yet exceeded her 15 years of age, is one of those victims. She was coerced into marrying one of the organization’s elements after he practiced pressures on her family. However, after the liberation of the city and the murder of her husband, whom she had always been dreaming of deserting him, and tasted different forms of deprivation and abuse, until she found herself entrapped by someone working with the security forces, ‘who abused her sexually in return for protecting her from the existing social pressures and security hunting’.
The situation worsened more and more. Huda’s home, in ‘Al-Ameen’ neighborhood on the right side of Mosul, which was partially demolished by the intensive air bombing, was eventually turned into a notorious brothel receiving dozens of security men and others in return for a meal or very little money.
Procedures and Petition Trap
Two months before committing suicide, the investigation team met ‘Shaymaa’. While wiping her running tears with her hand, which was wounded during a previous suicide attempt, she said, ”In my attempt to secure life for the remaining members of my family, nobody left me unhurt, even my uncle abused me without any conscience or shame or fear from heavenly punishment.”.
Shaymaa suffered from sexual harassments and abuse by different persons, whom she described as ferocious wolves, including public employees anytime she went to collect her father’s pension. “All people look upon me as a sexual easy target with no one to secure my protection”, she said while wiping her running tears.
Pressures and security chase forced Shaymaa to have an affair with an element attributed to a military group named ‘Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi’, who took her for himself in return for protecting her from her uncle and from any sexual abuse.
Shaymaa’s main concern was obtaining official documents, particularly her father’s death certificate to collect his retirement pension and support her younger brother and sister. When she retained the services of a lawyer to issue such papers and be relieved of sexual abuse, she could not afford to pay his fees. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the straw that pushed her into suicide according to what her sister Layla said. “We are held accountable for a crime committed by a wrongful undutiful brother who turned the life of our family into hell.” she exclaimed.
“No one was satisfied with our brother when he joined ‘Daesh’. He attacked my mother and threatened my father with a gun who died soon after that of a heart clot. This is because both of them were against his association with Daesh. Now we are chased by security because of him, and as we are poor, nobody supports us. Our relatives abandoned us. This happens while some families belonging to ‘Daesh’ but having money or tribal influence live safely without any problem, not only this, but some of them obtained public positions in the state”, Layla added.
Social Ostracism and Blockade
A journalist from Mosul documented several cases of sons and daughters being abused for getting involved with ISIL organization. He said to the investigation team, “Huda, Shaymaa and many others of those known to have been sexually abused, are just a few among hundreds of other cases in Baghdad and within the encampments. Nevertheless, different authorities attempt to keep silent due to social and security considerations”.
The journalist with the initials (H.A) said “Since the liberation of the city, many families have been exposed to social ostracism and isolation that looked much like a blockade imposed on their houses and camps. This situation exposes them to different types of exploitation. Many journalists and activists documented stories of girls practicing prostitution in return for being protected from security pursuit or for securing their daily supplies. Such practices are perpetrated in the absence of the government willpower to punish offenders according to law. There is actually no vision capable of protecting those vulnerable innocents, classified as ‘Daesh families’, and having them reintegrated within the communal fabric.”.
The journalist describes the problem as complicated and knotty. He thinks time can hardly solve it. We cannot rely on hope against hope waiting for the feeling of hatred between different parties to be relieved. The situation is getting more and more complicated. “There are families belonging to ‘Daesh’ living in the city under actual siege. Sometimes their neighbors prevent aid organizations from supplying them with food. You can expect their bitter feelings then. We speak about aged people, innocent children, guiltless widows and orphans, a regretful situation that can create more serious complications.”
Several international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, confirm in their reports that Daesh families are exposed to communal sanctions, being isolated in their besieged camps under inhuman circumstances. The authorities impose strict procedures on the individuals and families believed to have supported Daesh Organization, ‘as if it is a collective or mass punishment’.
‘Hisham Al-Hashimy’, a political analyst and an expert in militant groups, says, “Many violations are committed against the so-called Daesh families, without being legally or judicially monitored. Bribery is widespread. This means that those who can afford to pay hush money are not exposed to any problems or harassments. Crimes of sexual abuse and rape are committed, aids provided by civil organizations are expropriated and then sold, and innocent children are coerced into beggary.”
An activist with the initials ‘H.A.’ checked a number of the shelter camps run by the organization employing him and acknowledges the existence of several transgressions: “The poor are always victims. They have been crammed without any money or support into tents that look much like prison cells. It is rather hard for them to move in or out of their place, waiting long for any settlement for their tragic situations and that might take years. Some have nothing to buy bread or a pain killer pill. As for the rich Daesh families, they changed their residence places and paid hush monies to leave for other neighborhoods or cities. They are trying to build a new life and even get public positions in the administration and authority centers.” he says.
Figures in Camps
It is not actually a matter of a few hundred ostracized families, whose individuals are belonging to Daesh, neither is it a matter of a few hundred people being chased by clans whose sons had fallen victims at the hands of Daesh, but it is about thousands of families and tens of thousands of individuals who are being threatened and exposed to different violations.
Statistics carried out by some organizations in six encampments show that the number of widows staying there reached about (3,000) women. However, according to activists, this number is less than the actual figures, in view of the fact that several married women, whose husbands are either killed or lost, fail to acknowledge the occurrence of any marriage in the absence of official documents.
An official in one of these camps reveals to the investigation team that ‘the rate of widows from amongst Daesh fighters reaches about 70% of the total number of widows in the camp.’
Some of the followers monitoring the organization since its birth until the collapse of the so-called Islamic State estimate the number of Daesh families at 20,000 families. Their information is based on a statement made by Daesh Organization in 2015, which states that the number of their fighters exceeds 25,000 men. And as per the estimates made by some followers, more than 70% of the last number are married and have families and children. This is because the organization was encouraging marriage at early age.
Some local officials refer to the presence of over 100,000 people staying detained in encampments in three governorates: Al-Anbar, Ninwa and Saladin, for being attached to Daesh Organization, after being prevented to return to their original regions.
The local governments in the three governorates took decisions to deport ‘Daesh families’ or prevent their repatriation to their previous regions for several years to avoid any possible clashes. To this end, at least one makeshift camp was set up in each governorate to house the organization’s families, if their security statuses proved to be unsafe.
And in accordance to a government statistics, there are 94 shelter camps in Iraq, housing approximately 300,000 refugees of different ages. “This number includes around 118,000 people, whose security statuses remain unclear. Some individuals from these families are belonging to Daesh, but there are others who were doing different service and office tasks. They were presented with a ‘fait accompli’, throughout the years when the organization dominated a whole quarter of the country. They were not involved in the military or the security files, neither did anyone witness to their belongingness to Daesh”, said the security expert, Hisham Al-Hashemy.
The United Nations High Commissariat for Refugees ‘UNHCR’ estimates the present number of refugees in Iraq at two million people, half a million of whom are still in shelter camps.
Ostracism and Mass Punishment
Hundreds of women in the city of Mosul were forced or coerced into marrying fighters or individuals belonging to Daesh, other women found out that their husbands are serving with the organization after the city had collapsed under their control. Others have sons and brothers who had joined Daesh unwillingly. “Anyhow, regardless of any family relationship, all those women committed no crime and accordingly they cannot be considered or treated as members of the organization. As per law they are acquitted of any crime” said lawyer Ahmad Mohsen.
Some of the individuals in Mosul society and most of those who were hurt in any way at the hands of the organization, show feelings of antagonism and indifference to any injustice done to the members of the organization’s families, whereas some others want them to be punished.
One of the inhabitants of the old city of Mosul named ‘Nehmat Suliman’ says. “The punishment of the Daesh families is a necessary issue, to become a lesson, and to prevent the return of similar extremist organizations in the future. They spoiled everything on the ground. Is it sensible to find a father or a brother or a husband in any family loyal to Daesh and his family is against his belongingness and behavior while accepting to live with him under the same roof? Of course not!! That is what we have seen with our very own eyes. I know many youngsters who were very proud of having a father or a brother with the organization.”
That is actually the destiny of most Daesh families who could not change their place of residence due to their financial status and due to their refusal to stay at shelter camps for different reasons. In some cases they are even denied access to food aids.
Mohamed Ahmad, a young civil activist working with the volunteering teams engaged in delivering food supplies to families, says, “The inhabitants in some of Mosul old neighborhoods prevented us from offering food aids to a family consisting of a woman and three children, because the husband was belonging to Daesh. And when we insisted on doing our job, they informed the security forces that we render help to Daesh people and later on we were denied access to the whole neighborhood.”
Such collective judgments on the organization’s families are rejected by some people, who are sensible enough to distinguish the difference between those who committed crimes and those who were not involved in any wrongdoing. But in the midst of chaos and ruin and under the government failure and with the sufferings of the organization’s victims, their voices will always be subdued and valueless.
‘Mustafa Hussein’, a history teacher (40 years) says, “Since the middle of the last century, Iraq has been adopting a policy based on punishing whole sections of the society making. them antagonistic towards the state.” He cites the sectarian discriminatory policies applied against the Shiite societal sections, the banishment of Jews, the exclusion of Kurds and the targeting of other sects. Then he enquires about the destiny waiting Daesh families and its effect on their attitude towards the entire society and state.
Gamal Abdullah, a civil activist, pinpoints the volume of the problem and its repercussions by saying, “Now some 100,000 people are indiscriminately regarded as guilty culprits without considering their different statuses. All of them are being ostracized and hunted, whereas some of them are exposed to physical and sexual violence only because they continued to work in a service office or a hospital during Daesh rule. Perhaps half of them are under 18 years of age. They are mere children who will grow up under tragic conditions, and if we postpone getting them rehabilitated and reintegrated within the society, they will eventually turn into time bombs that will sooner rather than later explode a new wave of violence.”
Hassan Al-Ebrahimy, a social researcher, stresses on the necessity of containing Daesh families while setting particular mechanisms to observe and follow up their behaviors. “They need to undergo specific rehabilitation programs in harmony with the volume of the impacts left by the organization’s methodology on their attitudes.”, he said and warned that all forms of mass punishment ‘will create more complications and social problems, the impact of which will appear crystal clear in the future, in the form of negative reactions in the victims’ behaviors.’.
In his interpretation of the strong reaction of the society towards Daesh families, Al-Ebrahimy thinks that the society wishes to wash its hands of any relation with Daesh and hold the organization accountable for all what happened to the city. The whole society of Mosul was for a period carrying that heavy guilt.
Negative Reaction to Exploitation
In the course of her last meeting with one of the team of this investigation, ‘Shaymaa’ described how she was exposed to different forms of harassments, and how her identity documents, the death certificate and pension card of her father were taken from her. She described how groups of different security groups kept on bursting into their house to search it and how such harassments stopped after her having an affair with one of the elements of ‘Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi’.
Sexual abuse and harassment are among the most common contraventions faced by the organizations’ families. One of the security members serving in Mosul attributes this to two reasons, the first of which is that empty handed families do not possess the money needed to support themselves; they only own their bodies to pay in return for their protection and daily livelihood. As for the second reason, it is associated with the conservative environment which makes it rather shameful for the female or any member of her family to make a complaint or report any sexual attack.”
Another police officer ‘by affiliation’, who refused to reveal his name for fear of being chased, said,’ “Some security elements take advantage of Daesh families in different ways. Nothing can stop them from doing whatever they want with their victims. Some members race to their tents or houses to arrest whoever they like on the pretext of interrogation and then abuse them sexually even by force.”
“A few days ago, we burst into a house after having received information about the presence of Daesh elements there, but we were shocked to find a colonel officer ‘by affiliation’ making love with the wife of a Daesh element. We detained him and transferred his papers to the leadership of operations”. “We don’t really know what can be done. We all know for sure that there are excesses, but no one dares to report any.”
‘Heba’, a mother supporting two kids after losing her husband in an air bombing, is one of the victims of sexual abuse. She was attacked by some security men ‘by affiliation’, who were in charge of protecting Al-Gadha’ encampment in ‘Al-Qayara’ neighborhood. They threatened to detain her with the charge of cooperating with her brothers who were known to be working with ‘Daesh’, if she ever refuses to have sex with them in return for giving her some aids.
While hiding her face with a veil, and covering all her body with a black cloak with dirty edges, Heba says, “We are victims paying the price of those who belong to Daesh”. Then she goes on saying while looking around the empty tent, except for a few blankets, a dirty mat and a few cooking pots, to make sure nobody was there, “We pay it from our honor, freedom, and dignity.”
Heba begins to look at the entrance of the tent, and says in a voice that can be hardly heard, “All my brothers are fighters with Daesh. Why on earth am I punished for their crimes? What is the relation between those who sexually abuse us and the acts perpetrated by the organization? Every day I wish to die and put an end to my unending sufferings, but salvation seems to be far away.”
The woman whose features seem to show that she is in her late thirties, wiped the sweat on her forehead, in spite of the cold weather of December and despite having nothing in her tent to keep her warm, said to the investigation team, “I have been exposed to blackmail all the time, to the extent that someone said to me ‘If you seek safety, I can secure it for you, but you know what I want in return’”
After a short silence and as if she wants to choose suitable words, she said in a rather strangled voice, “After he sexually abused me several times, I became sexually ready for all. I began to practice sex every night to secure food for my kids. We cannot afford to buy even a loaf of bread.”
She kept silent while trying to wipe her wet eyes and get her breath again, then she broke into tears and said. “Sex has become my work for only $3 or $4 to support my kids, satisfy their hunger and buy their medicine without any threat.” She stopped for a while looking outside her tent where her two kids were playing and then said, “They began to grow up and I don’t know what the future holds for us.”
Infringements and Reticence
With the beginning of the operations of fighting Daesh Organization and restoring Mosul, and with the arrival of the first waves of refugees fleeing the fierce battles, the security procedures necessitated separating men from women who were sent to the encampments. As for men, their identity papers were carefully scrutinized according to lists of the wanted men kept by security services. Such a procedure created the impression that women would not be included within identity scrutiny procedures carried by security forces.
But that was not quite true, at least in some areas of Ninwa Governorate, where the security services stamp certain numbers on the food rationing cards of families whose members are suspected of having any affiliation with Daesh after being screened and isolated, according to the information obtained from an officer working with the security apparatus in Mosul. He said, “Numbers like 3 or 4 are marked on the food rationing cards of any family suspected of having any of its members involved with the organization for being later on scrutinized and chased.”
The security measures carried out for such families take many forms, ranging from withdrawing identity documents, to arrests and detentions, including women if suspected of having a family member belonging to the organization. That what happened with ‘Mona’ (15 years) together with her father and a relative named ‘Om Samira’, who confirmed her arrest with ‘Mona’ while traveling from ‘Al-Makary’ area in the old city of Mosul to the encampment location with other women, who were released later on, while she, Mona and her younger sister remained under custody.
‘Om Samira’, who seemed to be in her 30s, covered all her body in black and her face with a grey scarf, followed the investigation team out of the tent, where dozens of the organization’s fighters’ wives, daughters, and mothers were seen gathering. She whispered shamefacedly while looking down saying, “They raped me a score of times. My sister ‘Mona’ was also raped. She died of a nervous breakdown a week after her release… She was screaming in a hysterical way, saying: wash me, wash me to be purified.”
‘Om Samira’ confirmed that she was raped by more than one person in a single day before being released and transferred to the shelter camp, then ‘Mona’ followed her later on, completely ruined.
Her family found out what happened to their daughter, but all of them preferred to keep reticent under such conditions, where battles and chaos spread everywhere.
However, the investigation team could not actually verify what ‘Om Samira’ said, owing to the security measures taken within the encampment. The team also failed to obtain any comment from a number of senior officers as regards the violations committed, neither did they reply to the short messages ‘sms’ addressed to them.
Whereas Brigadier General ‘Yehia Rasoul’, the spokesman for the Common Operations Leadership says, “We have not actually received any complaint or information about such violations, and if we ever receive any complaint, we will investigate it and take the necessary legal measures against any violator. We cannot accept any attack against any citizen from anybody.”
“We have our communication and coordination with all leaderships, including the Army Command, the National Security and Al-Hashd Al-Shabbi group. If the violator is affiliated to any security faction, we can coordinate with his leadership and get him punished. All parties can understand the necessity of imposing the rule of law.” Rasoul added.
Professional Practice of Prostitution
It is paucity, social blockade and security chase that pushed many women from Daesh families to take prostitution as a profession to secure their livelihood and security.
‘Khansaa’ (16 years), is one of the victims of blockade and abusive security chase. With the beginning of Ninwa liberation operations in late 2016 and after the security forces took control of the village and her two ‘Daesh-related brothers were detained, she had no option but to immigrate accompanied with her mother from’ Hassan Shami’ village to ‘Al-Kharez’ encampment. At last they settled in a tent regarded by many of her neighboring immigrants as suspicious, noticing that security elements and other persons are frequently seen there.
She revealed to the investigation team in the course of their visit to the camp that she had an affair with an immigrant who raped her, and then abandoned her before the situation can develop and the encampment authorities know what happened. The only option open to her then was using her body in prostitution.
The investigation team monitored over 20 houses in Mosul inhabited by Daesh-related families. Those houses were turned into prostitution dens, in a semi public way, after their inhabitants were subjugated under the pressures of dispossession and abusive security hunts into practicing prostitution in their places.
One of the tribe dignitaries, who declined to mention his name lest he would be accused of defending ‘Daesh’, said, “ Regretfully, all authorities keep their mouths shut about this serious issue and prefer reticence, as if their silence would eventually solve such a shameful catastrophe. Those are our girls and what is being done now is a stigma for all, not only ‘Daesh.”
In the absence of government solutions, and with the failure of the civil organizations, which cannot launch any rehabilitation or integration projects, due to the security restrictions imposed, and for fear of being accused of supporting any party, the tribal system, particularly those located on the edges of Mosul, moved to seek solutions for the protection of honor. To this end, ‘wives married to Daesh members are returned to their fathers’ families, and if they have children, females join them but males are either left with their fathers’ families or remain in shelter camps in case of having non-Iraqi fathers’.
This procedure was, in fact, taken ‘to protect women and girls and secure a better life for them, and in the meantime, avoid arousing the feelings of the organization’s victims who are holding any Daesh family accountable for the blood of their victims.’
Nevertheless, this ‘solution’ creates problems, as it separates mothers from their children, and cannot secure protection for male children.
‘Om Moaaz’ (30years) is one of the mothers who found themselves facing this problem. She and her daughter live with her father’s family but she was separated from her 3-year old son who lives in the shelter camp with a woman related to his killed father. “Every day, I take out his clothes and smell it. I am in bad pain because I abandoned my son and left him for an unknown future, but I had no option.” she said.
Hassan Al-Ebrahimy, a social researcher, cautions of the seriousness of such an inhuman separation between mothers and their children. “The child will grow up orphan without any memory and with a fabricated story, in the real sense of this word.” he said.
Al-Ebrahimy indicates that the principles of transitional justice are pillared on achieving justice without applying mass punishment just for satisfying any victim. He stresses that the absence of viable solutions opens the door wide for the rise of new problems, which can be more complicated than other war repercussions. “The treatment of the impacts of wars, specifically those related with social and psychological problems, is a rather difficult process and necessitates long-term plans.” he said.
He cautions that the government has not taken the steps necessary for dealing properly with the post-war files and repercussions ‘ a state of affairs that has left the door open for collective retribution and pushed non-specialized bodies to seek solutions that might escalate the impacts of the existing problems’.
The same viewpoint is shared by Hisham Al-Hashimy, a security expert, who points out that the principles of the transitional justice adopted by the government now are ineffective , since all the plans drawn for handling the file of Daesh fighters are ‘ too idealistic and impractical.’ “The committee assigned to follow up the file puts among its priorities protecting those persons from the reactions, particularly the tribal and vindictive reactions in the clannish communities.” he says,
The absence of government plans, in addition to the practices of isolation, exploitation and other infringements, will eventually result in dozens of victims day after day, and create more and more hatred and extremism.
Activist Ali Murad sees that such feeling of abhorrence is now sowing the seeds for the birth of a new generation of extremists, who will feed an endless whirl ring vortex of violence. He documents in a small notebook all the violations that can reach his ears, but he can do nothing to stop it.
He says, “We are powerless, we cannot even arouse such files or lodge complaints or open investigations about it. We prefer to close the bloody files and turn a blind eye to the tragic reality of what is happening on the ground now”.
Nobody asks about the destiny of ‘Shimaa’s family; nobody enquires what the future stores for her younger brother and sister;, nobody asks about the destiny of the widow ‘Huda’, who is still underage; nobody ever cares about the fate of two children after their mother ‘Heba’ had fallen in the whirlpool of prostitution after losing all hope of finding someone who can extricate her.
Whilst the sun was going down the horizon, Laila was seen dragging her heels, on her way home after a visit to her sister’s grave. She stood on the doorstep of a small house located in an alley surrounded by ruins, then she bent down, lifted a big stone and placed it behind the main door of her house, while saying, “ We still have no hope, officials are engaged in gaining more and more privileges, people are running after their livelihood, and organizations are engaged in programming projects just on paper, while we are falling like tree leaves, perhaps to be the fuel that will be added to explode a new wave of violence.”
This investigation was accomplished by the Iraqi Network of Investigative Journalism “NIRIJ”
N.B. Names of all women speaking in this investigation were changed for their protection