From ‘living in hell’ to living in hope

A young family face unspeakable tragedy at the hands of ISIS, then make a dramatic escape.

Before the conflict, Samera* ran a beauty salon from her home in Mosul, Iraq. Life was stable, and Samera remembers being happy, even though her family weren’t well off. Samera felt safe, and enjoyed working to support her four children.

‘Like living in hell’
Life changed dramatically when ISIS arrived in Mosul. ‘They destroyed our life completely’, Samera says. When the family first heard about ISIS and the crimes they were committing in Syria, they never thought that the group would come to Mosul.

When ISIS took over the city ‘they did whatever they wanted,’ Samera says. ‘They killed our dreams, our confidence. They burned our homes, they blew up our mosques, churches and our houses. They took our dignity.’

Samera was told that it was no longer acceptable for a woman to own a business. They took everything from the family, and cut off their access to government rations.

‘It was very bad. There were horrible rules we had to follow – it was like living in hell,’ Samera tells us. The family longed for the city to be recaptured, so that they could return to a normal life. Every day they saw terrible atrocities.

Once the intense battle to recapture Mosul began, the family faced even more danger, as shells fell every night. They tried to escape, but were caught. Samera’s husband was executed in front of the family, including the children.

‘My children were screaming loudly and we begged them to not kill my husband but they did. They threatened me, and told me if we say even a word they will kill the rest of my family.’

With extraordinary courage, Samera told herself not to cry. And, to keep them safe, told the children not to say anything about what has happened – in spite of their great pain and grief.

Yet Samera did not give up, and bravely resolved to escape with her children. They left west Mosul and headed to the safer east side of the city. Samera reached her sister’s home, where they were welcomed in.

Big hearts
However, things still weren’t easy, as food and other essentials were limited. When the city was finally recaptured, the family was overjoyed, and couldn’t wait to return home.

But once they arrived they were shocked at what they found. All of the family’s belongings had been taken, and ISIS had completely destroyed their house. Samera tried to appear strong in front of the children, but she didn’t know what to do.

Thankfully, a community leader stepped in to help, and found a place for her to live so Samera and the children did not have to live on the street.

After a couple of months, Samera heard about Tearfund. ‘I said, “At last there is someone who wants to help us with his or her big heart.”’ Several days later, Tearfund visited Samera to assess her situation.

Samera had been borrowing money to pay rent, and was very worried about how to meet the family’s most basic needs. But then Tearfund told her she’d be receiving a cash grant. She was overwhelmed with relief.

‘Then Tearfund told me that I’d receive cash assistance two more times! We were so glad that Tearfund care for the most vulnerable families. I would like to thank everyone who donated for us.’

In total, Samera received 1,440,000 IQD (roughly £900), which has completely changed the family’s situation. She has been able to repay her debts and buy food for her children. She has saved some of the money to be able to support the family for several months, until she finds work.

‘I will pray for Tearfund staff and the people who donated for us. The last word I have is: God bless you and protect you. I will pray for you always.’


  • Pray for Samera and her children. Ask God to continue to heal them and comfort them in their grief.
  • Pray that Samera will be able to find stable work so that she can support her family long term.
  • Lift up the nation of Iraq. Pray for peace and good governance. And pray for protection upon our local partners and staff there, so that they can continue to help vulnerable people like Samera.

*Name changed to protect identity

Gideon Heugh

Gideon is a Copywriter in Tearfund's Brand and Communications Team. He's passionate about poetry, nature and a good cup of coffee, and he has an MA in Creative Writing.