Sunday, October 20, 2019

Widows of Iraq's war pick up the threads of fragmented lives

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2019-05-18 16:01:22 BdST

In a workshop in a bombed-out factory in Mosul, Najlaa Abdelrahman joins scores of other women on a production line as they sew garments and try to knit their lives back together.

The mother of three lost her husband during the war against jihadist group Islamic State, which occupied the northern Iraqi city as the capital of its self-declared caliphate until government forces recaptured it in summer 2017.

Abdelrahman also lost her Mosul home and now spends half of the salary she earns at the garment factory on getting to work.

Widows and divorced women sew clothes at Waladi textile factory, part of which was destroyed by the war in Mosul, Iraq May 5, 2019. REUTERS

Widows and divorced women sew clothes at Waladi textile factory, part of which was destroyed by the war in Mosul, Iraq May 5, 2019. REUTERS

"I have been working here for a while, this is my only work opportunity," said Abdelrahman who, like many of her colleagues, is her family's sole breadwinner.

Most of the site was destroyed in the fighting, but the International Organisation for Migration has managed to restore one section, where around 150 people - of whom 80% are women - now work, a fraction of the 1,020 it used to employ.

Widow Fatam Hadi Jabr, 56, prepares Iftar 'break fasting meal' during the holy month of Ramadan in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq May 12, 2019. REUTERS

Widow Fatam Hadi Jabr, 56, prepares Iftar 'break fasting meal' during the holy month of Ramadan in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq May 12, 2019. REUTERS

The factory's foreman, Nathem Sultan, said the salaries it provides may not always be enough. But for now it is all that the business, which has a contract with the state to manufacture hospital clothing, can afford.

"This salary they receive sometimes isn't enough to feed them, but it is hope for a better life," he said.

Most Mosul residents are struggling financially.

Widow Fatam Hadi Jabr, 56, breaks fast with her brother and her children during the holy month of Ramadan in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq May 12, 2019. REUTERS

Widow Fatam Hadi Jabr, 56, breaks fast with her brother and her children during the holy month of Ramadan in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq May 12, 2019. REUTERS

Families who build their own homes go into debt while others cram into increasingly expensive rented accommodation. Foreign-funded projects suffer delays.

The 2019 state budget has allocated $560 million for the city's reconstruction, according to two Mosul lawmakers. A UN advisor cited $1.8 billion as one estimate for a year's rebuilding work.

Nearly 2 million Iraqis remain displaced due to the war against Islamic State, according to a survey by non-governmental organisation REACH.