Defying ISIS and Dodging Airstrikes to Provide Medical Care in Mosul

“What drove you to do this work, despite the danger?”

“Our shared humanity.” Ibtisam speaks with the confidence of someone who has lived a dozen lifetimes during her short time on earth. “How could I not help when I had the [medical] experience that people needed?”

Fifteen years ago, Ibtisam was a doctor’s secretary in Mosul. Last year she dodged ISIS fighters and coalition air strikes to reach the homes of injured neighbours and treat their wounds. Over her career, Ibtisam’s knowledge and experience grew exponentially, so when ISIS struck, she was the right person, in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills.

You and Ibtisam are partners now. You provided a small business grant to help Ibtisam restart her clinic when her neighbourhood was liberated from ISIS. And together, from an unassuming storefront clinic, you are serving her community.

What does your small business grant do for Ibtisam?

You allow her to continue to practice her life-saving skills. Ibtisam started her career as a secretary, but it wasn’t long before the doctors started training her to handle basic medical issues. She learned how to insert cannulas, give injections, treat wounds and burns, and assist in birthing. When Mosul was at peace, Ibtisam developed valuable skills in order to free up doctors’ time. But during the war and in its the aftermath, she is using her skills to save lives.

You allow her an opportunity to be generous. It feels amazing and satisfying to be able to give to others, no matter what our situation in life. Your small business grant, which helped purchase supplies and basic medicine, provided some margin in the clinic’s finances. Having a good supply of syringes, for example, means Ibtisam can provide free injection services to families so recently freed from ISIS that they have no money to pay with.

You provided a way for her to look after her family. Ibtisam’s husband ran a CD shop before ISIS took over the city. They closed his business down, declaring that he was “corrupting society” by selling music. Their family had relied on his income to live. After his shop was closed, Ibtisam earned their only income. Today, Mosul is recovering, but it will take time for families to have enough disposable income to spend on things like CDs. Ibtisam’s income is essential for her family’s survival.

What does your grant do for the community?

You make it possible for local residents to get reliable medical care. The clinic is open every afternoon and evening, and has doctors on staff to treat patients. Because of the level of destruction in Mosul, both from ISIS’ forces and the coalition effort to liberate the city, it will be a long time before government hospitals are up and running at full capacity. Clinics like Ibtisam’s fill in the gap and provide essential services.

You also make it possible for families escaping active fighting in other parts of the city to get care at no cost. We’ve witnessed so many families fleeing with nothing—not even shoes on their feet! At Ibtisam’s clinic, families with no means are given the care they need for free.

What does your grant do to the picture ISIS painted of womanhood and community?

You smashed it! When ISIS was in charge, they shut down Ibtisam’s clinic because they believed that, as a woman, she shouldn’t be doing this kind of work. And they absolutely rejected the idea that she could work in the same building as male doctors.

Ibtisam and her clinic are a testament to the determination, skills, intelligence, persistence, and courage of Iraq’s women. She answered neighbours’ calls for help and became the person they trusted and relied on in times of need. She faced down ISIS threats when she visited neighbours’ homes to help deliver babies. She faced down mortar attacks to treat wounds and burns in order to prevent infections and save lives.

Now Ibtisam is facing the rebuilding of her city and the restoration of her neighbourhood.

And you are there, right in the middle of it.

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