Community centres in a war-torn city

In 2017, the city of Mosul in northern Iraq was liberated from IS. The liberation gave hope and new perspective, but it was bought at great cost. How do the mothers of Mosul deal with their memories? And how do they help their children to live normal lives again?

In the aftermath of the victory over IS, ZOA, together with local partner IID, established a number of so-called community centres throughout Mosul. Community centres are places where the people of Mosul can find shelter in the midst of the chaos of their destroyed city – and often their destroyed hearts. Together, IID and ZOA opened eight different centres in East and West Mosul since the project was launched in March 2017. For more than 6,000 women and 12,000 children these places are a safe haven.

Psychological help

The end of the occupation did not mark the end of fear for many women in Mosul. Many women lost their husbands in the war and have to survive alone. A community centre is a place where they can rebuild their social networks. They also receive psychological help, learn to claim their role in society again and learn to recognise traumas in themselves and their family members.

‘’My son starts talking again’’

One of the mothers, Nala, explains how she and her family benefited from the community centres: “The occupation was a very difficult time. The bombs kept falling, I lost a baby and my brother was killed by IS. We also experienced difficulties when it came to caring for our autistic son. He refused to eat and lived off the medicines and vitamin pills I gave him. Now, the situation has changed. In the centre he has learned to eat meals like any other child. He also learns how to interact with other children and starts talking again.’’

Mothers learn to recognise trauma

The war had a large impact on the children of Mosul. Some fell behind in school during the occupation. In the Community Centers, they get a chance to catch up with their peers. However, many children suffer from deeper wounds. In the community centers, mothers learn how to deal with the traumas of their kids. Ayda, one of the mothers in the centre, shares her story: Ayda: “During the occupation, we were imprisoned by IS and my daughter became traumatized. A soldier held a gun to her head. She still remembers everything and became a scared girl. In the center, I learned to deal with my children’s trauma. If they do not behave, I no longer punish them. Instead, I try to talk about what is on their minds. I notice that my daughter becomes less selfish – she learns to share – and she opens up to me again! ”