Going home can be complicated. When you finally return home after your town has been occupied by ISIS, destroyed by bombs, and finally liberated, it’s a traumatic return.
By the end of July, hundreds of displaced families had returned to their homes in Mukashafah. But it might be more accurate to say they returned to the places where their homes once were.
The situation in Mukashafah is dire. When Ziyad, a local resident, was asked what his neighbours most need, he answered “TENTS!” Residents have no safe place to live while rebuilding their homes and lives. He and his neighbours asked for someone to stand with them, to give them a little support while they do the heavy lifting of re-creating their town out of rubble.
Together, we delivered the longed-for tents. We provided for other needs, too: water tanks and food baskets filled with staples like flour, rice, lentils, milk, oil, sugar, and tea.
There is something else that complicates the place where Ziyad and his neighbours live. The events of the last year have only increased the mistrust and tension between Sunni and Shia, militia and army.
Hala Sarraf, our partner in delivering this aid said “We believe that peace building in Iraq is much better facilitated at the human level. We feel we are all Iraqis and we can stand for each other.”
Standing together doesn’t happen very often these days, but something special happened on this trip: unity. The Shia militias and tribes of the city were one team, committed to help residents. The Shia militias hosted breakfast for the team following a 4am start, and all felt safe and cared for. Ahmed, our partner who came from a different part of Iraq to help deliver aid called the residents “my people” and urged people to send more help.
We can’t wait for the violence in Iraq to end before we help with the rebuilding. When we respond to local needs–with local residents and solutions–we make space for unity to be created.
In the end, we believe it’s that unity which will make space for wider peace.