First Hand Recollections of the Iraq War
Lojain remembers the explosions. Because the bombings occurred at night, she and her family would “go to the basement of the house” in Mosul almost every night for a month. School stopped for four months. Food prices increased, and people in some parts of the city lost access to water as pipelines were destroyed. There were blackouts, and for seven-year-old Lojain, the times were scary. “We were always afraid.”
Hawar was 16 years old when the US-led forces arrived in Iraq. Living with his family in Akre, near Kurdistan’s third-largest city of Dohuk, he and his family viewed the invasion as “the liberation of Iraq.” Recalling Saddam Hussein’s 1988 chemical attacks on the Kurds in Halabja, they feared a similar response from the Ba’athist government when the Coalition forces arrived. In preparation, they covered the windows of their home with fabric. “We were always checking the news,” Hawar recalls. If Saddam attacked their city, Hawar and his family were ready to “go to the mountains” for safety.
At 19 years old, Ghassan was in his last year of high school in Muthanna, southern Iraq, when the Iraq War began. “Fear was everywhere” because “we don’t know what will happen after Saddam is gone. The future was uncertain.” He describes military campaigns in the streets, with people going about their daily lives as best they could and getting killed in the crossfire between Coalition forces and Saddam Hussein’s military defense. After the US troops gave control of the region to Iraqi government troops, the “conflicts reduced, bombs reduced, casualties reduced” for a short while. Then, in 2006, sectarian violence between Iraq’s Sunni and Shia groups flared. For six more years, Ghassan says the situation “was dangerous again,” ultimately paving the way for ISIS.
Reaching Across Dividing Lines
Lojain, Hawar, and Ghassan live in Iraq’s three main religious and ethnic regions: the Kurdish north, the Sunni center, and the Shia south. At times, these groups have been at war with one another, but Lojain, Hawar, and Ghassan know that collaborating on shared challenges builds lasting peace. They are part of Preemptive Love’s community of peacemakers helping to stabilize post-war Iraq by creating jobs for those whose lives have been decimated by the Iraq War and subsequent violence.
In our jobs creation program, vetted candidates are given small grants to start businesses, and they receive on-going, personalized coaching for a year to ensure their businesses thrive. Thanks to our community of peacemakers, over 400 new businesses were opened last year.
From Hardship to Stability
Sulaiman had polio as a child, which left him unable to walk. But, he never let his disability get in the way of caring for his wife and seven children. He built a clothing and fabric business and a home in Sinjar, northern Iraq, both of which were destroyed when ISIS invaded. Escaping on a motorcycle as ISIS fighters shot at him, Sulaiman and his family made it to the top of Mount Sinjar, where they stayed for eight days under an unforgiving sun. Eventually, he and his family settled near an internally displaced person (IDP) camp in Dohuk, where he rebuilt his business. In doing so, he incurred $550 of debt, but he had a livelihood. Then, last June, a fire broke out in the IDP camp and destroyed everything he had spent the last seven years building.
When you heard about the fate of Sulaiman’s shop, you offered him a lifeline to rebuild. With the grant you gave him and the coaching he received from our Jobs team, Sulaiman reopened his shop. In three months, Sulaiman had enough money to send his daughter to school and provide for his family’s daily needs. His shop also helps displaced families and the host community who do not have to travel far to buy clothing.
Shaima raises six children with her husband in Mosul. During the war with ISIS, her family’s home was bombed and destroyed, forcing them to leave. After Mosul was liberated and their house was rebuilt, the family moved back to west Mosul, where our community of peacemakers had opened a women’s sewing factory to revitalize the old city.
Shaima’s passion was to start a sewing business and make her money, but she couldn’t afford a sewing machine.You heard about her dream of starting a sewing business and responded. You helped Shaima set up a sewing business in her home, and now she makes enough money to keep her kids in school. Shaima is ecstatic, “I am very happy with this job…Without you, I would not have had such an opportunity to change my daily life.”
We first told you about Mohammed’s successful wheat farm, which produces much-needed food for his community, back in October. Since then, the implementation of a service project in the region cut off Mohammed’s farm from the river, which provides the farm with water.
Our community of peacemakers quickly responded with a letter of support on behalf of Mohammed’s farm. Working closely with the region’s local governor and the city hall director, the farm was reconnected to the river’s water supply. This collaborative process took only three days, but the trust created between the community and the local government from their shared success will last for a long time.
Conflict is inevitable, but violence is not. Working collaboratively with audacity and empathy, our community of peacemakers is finding creative solutions to stabilize communities in need and build lasting peace.