Caught in the chaos of war
First, their village was occupied by IS. After that, bombs fell. 13-year-old Yasser and his family are marked by the war they fled from. Now they get help from Mission East.
The children are huddling in the cold, and women gather their shawls around their shoulders. It is mid-November, and winter is on the way in Iraq. If the family was at home in their village, it would be no problem. They would stay in their warm house, and there would be enough food from their farms. But they sit instead in an unfinished building on the run from a war which they have no stake in.
Bombs fell on the village
The family lived one year under the Islamic State: "Under IS we could not cultivate our fields, so to get food, we had to sell our sheep. Such was life there," says Taha, who is the father of eight children.
When the bombs began to fall over the village in October this year, the family had to flee and found refuge in a village near the city of Kirkuk. "We spent a night outside our village before we fled through the mountains and came here," he reports. His story illustrates the chaos of war for families who just want to live in peace.
Dreaming of becoming a doctor
Taha and his family now live in an unfinished and wide open concrete building, and the children have been unable to attend school for more than a year. The children speak Arabic, so they cannot go to the area's Kurdish schools, and in the occupied area schools were closed. But 13-year-old Yasser still dreams of pursuing his studies: "My greatest dream is to go to Kirkuk and study. I want to be a doctor," he says.
Lacking protection from the cold
The family has received food and hygiene items from Mission East and mattresses and blankets from other organisations in the area. They also receive help from the residents of the nearby villages. But right now, the most pressing need is protection against winter cold:
"The cold begins now in November and lasts until February or March. So we need heaters and stoves and kerosene to run them. And more families are fleeing from our area to this place, so we need tents for them," says Taha.
"God willing, our home will liberated, and we can return to our homes and our families. The sweetest thing is to return home," says Taha.
On 7 October this year 202 families fled from IS-occupied territories to a village outside the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Mission East distributed food and hygiene kits. Over time Mission East will set up centres in the Kirkuk area where children can play, get informal education and have a safe place to speak out about their experiences. Mission East has set up centres like this elsewhere in northern Iraq.