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“It would be too hard to go back”

Emergency
Iraq

Ahmad, Zakia and their five children fled their village a month ago. They now live in Khazer camp with tens of thousands of other people displaced from their homes since last October. Still heavily traumatised by the two years they lived under the control of the Islamic State group, Ahmad and his wife welcomed one of Handicap International’s teams into their tent for a psychosocial support session.

Ibrahim and Ghaïda draw while their parents talk to professionals from Handicap International.

Ibrahim and Ghaïda draw while their parents talk to professionals from Handicap International. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

Today, two members of Handicap International’s team are visiting Ahmad and his family. They are welcomed outside the tent by a little girl with a radiant smile, who invites them in to meet her parents. As Ahmed and Shinda introduce themselves to the family, Ghaida returns to a corner of the tent where to continue her drawings with her little brother Ibrahim. The organisation’s team have come to talk with Ahmad and Zakia about their experience. Over the last few days, this team of psychosocial workers have been going from tent to tent in Khazer camp providing displaced families with psychological first aid. “They have lived some very traumatic experiences,” explains Shinda, a psychosocial worker. “It’s vital for them to talk about it and to express their feelings.”

“Before 2014, we led pretty normal lives,” says Ahmad. “I was a farmer and produced my own eggs, milk and the like. Whenever we needed money I worked as a taxi driver. My children used to go to school and we didn’t have much, but we were healthy and happy.” Ahmad sighs and adds: “Two years ago, when the Islamic State group arrived in our village, we lost everything. All of a sudden we were living in hell. I was constantly afraid.”

Zakia, Ahmad’s wife, continues with their story. “We lived on our savings for two years. Life was really hard. But what I find really difficult now are the memories that won’t go away. I keep seeing the booby-trapped cars and all sorts of crime. I don’t think we’ll go back to our village. It would be too hard after what we’ve been through.”

The team listens carefully to Ahmad and Zakia and gives them advice on how to handle their emotions. “To be honest with you, I don’t think there’s much hope for my country,” says Ahmad. “But I’ll keep on going for my children’s sake. My priority is their education, because they haven’t been to school for two years. Their happiness is all that matters now.”

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