21 Jun 2022
Um Jassim's story

Um Jassim*, a 50-year-old displaced woman, is from the city of Tikrit, in Salah al-Din governorate. Her husband passed away many years ago, leaving her to care for their three young sons. They lived in a mud house with modest means.

Many tragedies have affected the family through the years. One of Um Jassim’s sons was accidentally killed by celebratory gunfire at a wedding. Then in 2008, one of her two surviving sons, Waleed, was kidnapped and killed by armed groups.

In 2014 large areas of Iraq were seized by ISIL, including Tikrit city. Thousands of families fled, but Um Jassim and her son could not run away. “I did not have the means to leave. It was only three months later that we were able to move from the center to the outskirts of the city. I feared that my only surviving son would be kidnapped or recruited by ISIL.”

They moved to Al-Alam town, where they lived for four months with the support of local residents. However, Um Jassim decided it was not safe for them to stay there. They next travelled to Samarra city, in Salah al-Din, where they took shelter in an unfinished room in the extension of a school.

When IOM first visited Um Jassim in February 2016, she said: “Our shelter is just walls and a roof: dirt floor, no doors or windows, no electricity or lighting. There are insects and even animals.”

IOM conducted renovations to the school in March and April, through the support of the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO). Construction efforts included installation of windows, doors, and partitions for privacy; improvements to the floors, ceilings, and electric system; the rehabilitation of bathrooms and showers, and building additional latrines.

Um Jassim’s room now has a concrete floor, doors, windows and even electricity. “Before we did not have any options to improve our situation. Now we live more comfortably. I thank heaven for these renovations,’’ said Um Jassim with a smile.

*Name changed for privacy reasons.