“Just as you escape, they get you”

On February 27, 2017, bombing reached into a new neighborhood in Mosul, closer to a growing family. Warda and her husband Ahmad recognized the danger, scooping up their daughter and fleeing with their relatives.

“When we were just a few feet from the edge of the city, a man blew himself up in the middle of the crowd, just next to us,” Warda recalls. “I remember looking around and seeing all these people, dead and injured.”

Ahmad explains the irony: “It’s hard to admit to yourself that you survived in appalling conditions for two years and then, just as you were about to escape, they finally get you. You should have seen our city (before the conflict). There were people of all religions, resources, an ancient history, diversity, but all of that suddenly changed in 2014. The last two years have been very difficult.” Ahmad takes their daughter, Deema, into his arms and turns silent.

The explosion tore into Warda’s legs, and caused her to suffer a miscarriage. Her daughter and husband sustained injuries to their legs, and her mother suffered blows to her arm and hip. They were rushed to three different hospitals before finally landing in a hospital on the outskirts of the city. Doctors there delivered yet another blow: they would need to amputate Warda’s legs.

The operation left the young woman in need of physical therapy and psychological support. Today, she is recovering alongside her husband and daughter.

Handicap International staff like Fatima, a physical therapist, are by her side. When Fatima walks into Warda’s room, the young woman’s face lights up with a smile. “I try and think about our future, even if it’s complicated,” Warda says. “I’d like Deema to study and have a bright future and forget all of this.” 

When the physical therapy session ends, Ahmad and his wife ask Fatima to pass on a message: “Our greatest hope today is that they stop targeting civilians. Dozens, hundreds of innocent people are maimed and killed every day in Mosul, but they’ve done nothing wrong and just want to live in peace. We’re just one example of this tragedy.”


Mosul emergency: Fighting between armed groups and government forces in Iraq in recent years has displaced more than three million people. An estimated 11 million civilians need humanitarian assistance in the country. The Mosul offensive has presented international organizations with an unprecedented challenge. More than 365,000 people have fled the fighting since Oct. 17. 2016,  and casualty numbers among civilians are high.