Before you read Fatima’s story, know this: Fatima loved her husband. She and her children depended on him in innumerable ways. The year since he was killed by ISIS has been the hardest in her life, and she misses him terribly. Her life will never be the same.
There are a lot of ways that Fatima’s life is different than yours. Culturally different. You might think that you don’t have much in common. But the truth is, she’s a woman in her late 30’s, a mother to three boys, a widow, and now a savvy business person. There are many possible ways that your lives could intersect.
When we sat down with Fatima in the living room of her home, the light from the open door filtered in since there was no electricity in the neighborhood at the time. It was just a few days after the first anniversary of her husband’s death.
We heard stories of her husband from a family friend, who sat with us—Fatima’s husband was one of the bravest soldiers in his brigade. “ISIS fighters were afraid of him, and tried many times to kill him but they couldn’t. Finally, they planted an explosive in his car which killed him. But in battle…no one could face him.”
Not only was he brave, we were told, but he was known for having a great character. He was handsome and strong. “He was very tempting for women!” We all laughed, including Fatima.
“What was it like to be a third wife?” I asked. “I was fine with it,” she answered with a small smile. “I was the last one.”
Fatima had been married for 15 years, and together they were raising three boys, from 12 to 5 years old. Each wife had their own home. Their husband took care of everything—all of the expenses, including the shopping.
When we think of soldiers killed in the line of duty, it’s hard to imagine the devastation of a family destroyed in the aftermath, much less three families. But that’s part of the reality for some families in Iraq.
In the years they were married, Fatima learned a lot about her husband’s business. He was a sheep speculator—he would seek out underpriced sheep, buy them, and then sell them for a higher price.
For Fatima, that seemed like the best kind of business to start. When you provided the start-up capital for her business, she invested in her first livestock to resell.
Fatima has been growing her business for a year now. She earns enough to support her sons. There isn’t much left over at the end of each month, but they’re getting by. Being able to use her husband’s knowledge to support her family is keeping his memory alive through her work. In a way, his provision for his family carries on.
Everything about her life is different since his death. Fatima and her boys used to depend on her husband, but now if there is anything needed at the house, she is responsible. Fatima does the shopping now, and picks up the heavy bottles of drinking water and large bags of flour for making bread. Fatima keeps track of propane levels in the large cylinders she uses for cooking and making tea.
The loss of her husband is still a sharp pain, but in the last year, with your help, Fatima has learned a lesson that will carry her forward—she’s learned that she is capable of far more than she realized.