The rat-tat-tat-tat of gunfire made Ayman’s heart pound faster than his feet. As Iraqi forces fought to liberate the Old City of Mosul from ISIS control, Ayman, his mother, and two brothers fled towards the Tigris River, hoping to cross to Mosul’s east side in search of safety. Not everybody made it. ISIS attacked them, killing Ayman’s little brother while the others managed to escape.
Refugee. Returnee. IDP*. We know the terms, but we may not know the experiences underpinning the definitions.
Ayman, his mother, and his surviving brother were displaced to Mosul’s east side for three years, during which time they rebuilt their lives. While renting a home on the east side, they crossed through the west side’s heaps of rubble and desolate streets to repair the family home, which had been bombed in the nine-month liberation operations, and the tea shop Ayman had run with his brother. Approximately 54,000 homes were destroyed during the fight to retake Mosul, and the cost of repairing or rebuilding them fell on the homeowners. Like many people returning to Mosul’s Old City, Ayman went into debt in order to rebuild.
People often know what they need; they need just a little support to get there. You heard about Ayman when we were visiting other entrepreneurs in whose businesses we invest in Mosul’s Old City. Despite not having an air conditioner or many seats for the tea shop, Ayman was determined to rebuild his business. He had lost his father to diabetes in 2013, his brother to ISIS, and part of his youth to war. He would not lose his tea shop. You recognized his resilience and decided to invest in his tea shop. Through our jobs empowerment program, entrepreneurs such as Ayman receive a small business grant and a year of one-to-one coaching so their businesses can thrive.
With his grant, Ayman bought an air conditioner, a refrigerator for soft drinks and water, wooden chairs for his shop, and supplies. Over the last months, Ayman has grown his business so much that he has rented a bigger shop. Ayman has promised himself to “perpetuate the memory of my father, who was well-known in the market and this place, and I will not stop to this extent, and I will teach my children this job.” Already, he has repaid a large part of the debt used to rebuild the family home, and his tea shop has started to turn a profit.
Moving should be a choice, not a necessity. Join us in partnering with entrepreneurs to create businesses that honor resilience and celebrate the spirit of those we’ve lost too soon.
*Internally displaced people
Honor refugee, returnee, and IDP resilience.