Mission East staff distributing emergency aid in Mosul.
By Svend Løbner, journalist 28 Dec 2018 |

Five heroes put their lives at risk to save Mosul’s families

Mission East’s local aid workers drove into Mosul with food for starving children and families while Islamic State still terrorised the city. 

”Run the risk or get off now. You are now entering Mosul at your own risk.” 

This was the blunt message from the guide to the five aid workers from Mission East on the border of Western Mosul almost two years ago. Even though the liberation of the city had begun, Islamic State was still terrorising some of the neighbourhoods. The five heroes were not discouraged but drove determinedly into the warzone in small vans packed with food parcels for families who had been starving for up to six months. 

The first aid organisation in Mosul

”Helicopters were shooting at the city a few kilometres from us. We saw dead bodies in the streets and destitute people looking for help. Sometimes we had to throw the parcels with aid to the starving people on the other side of the of the street to avoid being shot at,” security coordinator Noor Atroshy remembers. He participated in the mission together with aid coordinator Knud Andersen, Safin Khaleel, Karam Artin and security coordinator Salar Ösman.

People were walking around like zombies

Salar remembers the first relief missions: “People were walking around like zombies, they were running around and were ready to die to get food for their children. I met a woman who told us with tears in her eyes that she broke wood into small pieces, boiled the bits in water and gave the soup to her children. They also ate grass from the garden,” he says. 

Willing to pay the price

The war was a disaster in every way, Salar repeats, but today he is happy that he dared risk his life to save those in need. And today, the local people remember Mission East. “When we come driving, people point at us and say: ‘there are the people who brought us food.’ At the different checkpoints they recognise us; they know we were the first to help them. Also, back then the security guards let us drive through: ‘You can drive through. You were the first to help us!’ And people say: ‘It was you who gave us food, blankets and kitchenware.’”

Two years after the first emergency response, Salar and the others are still eager to help people in need: “When I meet a woman who is boiling wood to be able to feed her children, I understand how big the needs are and then I just have to help. Yes, IS could attack us with mortars. But there are higher purposes and I just must help those in need,” Salar says.

Meet the five heroes from Mosul

Salar Ösman

Salar Ösman 
Security and liaison coordinator. Has worked with Mission East since 2017. 

Noor Atroshy

Noor Atroshy Security and liaison coordinator. Has worked with Mission East since 2016.

Karam Artem

Karam Artem
Driver. Has worked with Mission East since 2015.

Safin Khaleel

Safin Khaleel Emergency response team leader. Worked with Mission East 2016-2018.

Knud Andersen

Knud Andersen Emergency response coordinator for Mission East’s Mosul response. Worked with Mission East 2016-2018.