Sunnis & Shias Work Together To Rebuild Town Destroyed By ISIS

Ahmed takes time out from delivering relief aid in Iraq to talk to some giggly girls.

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.

What was once a family home is now a pile of rubble, thanks to ISIS and the fight to free their town from occupation.

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.

A man stands in the ruins of his home in Iraq. He holds a tent provided so he has shelter while he rebuilds.

An Iraqi man and young children stand at the entrance of their new tent.

sisterhood soap

A mom and her young children stand at the entrance of their new tent. The mother smiles—she now has shelter for her children.

Contents of a food basket delivered as emergency relief to formerly displaced Iraqi families trying to settle in their hometown.

Water tanks being loaded onto a truck, to be delivered to Iraqi families trying to rebuild their lives.

A truck loaded high with water tanks, destined for formerly displaced Iraqi families.

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.

These men choose to serve in the hardest parts of Iraq.

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.