Finding out ISIS were approaching their village, Tarfa and her husband, Hamed* felt like they had little choice but to flee. Leaving their home and livelihoods behind, they quickly left on foot with their five children and other relatives. They were desperate to escape the fast approaching devastation.
‘We were walking quietly... we were afraid that ISIS would capture us so we just kept walking.’ These are the words of Tarfa, retelling her family’s dangerous escape from their village in Iraq.
It was a tiring walk. Suddenly Tarfa experienced every mother’s worst nightmare. Where was her son? She asked her uncle if he had seen him. He hadn’t.
‘Without thinking I decided to go back and search for him. I was told that it was dangerous to go back and that ISIS would come to kill me, but I insisted on finding him.’ What courage that must have taken. A love so powerful, even in the face of fear and danger it wins. It’s a love we know well. To leave the others behind and to go back, searching to find the one (Matthew 18:12).
Tarfa searched carefully, aware of the danger around her. Finally, she found her son, asleep in some straw. He had become tired of walking and had stopped to sleep. You can almost hear the sigh of relief. Her son was safe. Alive and unhurt.
‘I grabbed his hand and we walked together until we joined our family. Many families lost their children – I am so thankful to still have mine.’
Conflict has caused widespread anguish and suffering across Iraq. Millions have fled their homes to escape the violence. Around 3.4 million people are internally displaced in Iraq, whilst around 300,000 are refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.
Many displaced families suffer extreme hardship and debt as they struggle to afford the things they need to survive. Tarfa, Hamed and their children are now living in a camp. They feel safe and are grateful that they are able to be together as a family, but times are hard.
They are one of many families in the camp receiving support from Tearfund. Our team has been responding to the physical and emotional needs of those whose lives have been upended. As well as providing clean water and hygiene kits to those in need, we are also helping communities to recover and rebuild their lives after the conflict.
Hamed shares, ‘Tearfund's assistance is very important for us – the hygiene kits contains soap and washing powder, which is very important for a healthy life. We can wash our tent, mats and, as you can see, our clothes.’ It allows Hamed, Tarfa and their family the opportunity to live their lives together in dignity.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.