In Iraq, violence has increased steadily in the past 8 months, prompting fears of a return to conflict. So far this year, over 7,000 thousand have been killed in a series of car bombings and suicide attacks at mosques, markets and other sites.
On the receiving end of it are Iraqis struggling to rebuild lives and communities destroyed by decades of violence.
Take Fawzia Ibrahim, a widow with five children living in a village in Madain district, outside Baghdad, where the violence in 2006 claimed the life of her husband as he ventured out one night, never to be seen by his family again. "We were forced to move out," she says. "We didn’t take anything with us.”
She returned three years later, but with no means of support Fawzia wasn't able to send her children to school. A community leader stepped in and with the help of the ICRC, which provided a basic irrigation system and generator, she was able to turn a smallholding growing vegetables into a more profitable undertaking. The process allowed her to water her land all year so plants like these tomato plants can survive the summer heat and the winter dryness. Her children can get to school now and pursue their chosen path.
“It's a successful programme, thank God. I didn't have any money and now it is my source of livelihood.”
The ICRC's intervention is designed to yield results within six months. Fawzia has been able to buy a cow with her profits and to pass on her know-how to other people in the community. The return of violence threatens the stability she and her family have fought for. ”Sure, we are afraid. Afraid of explosions. One time, when I heard bullets, I became crazy and went to the children's school to bring them home.”
ICRC field officer Haider Ibrahim says this project has transformed Fawzia's life giving her financial security despite the difficult circumstances surrounding her:
"The project has been a great thing for Fawzia. She's gone from near destitution to buying a cow! Here in the countryside, people really value livestock and it's a great achievement that she has been able to buy a cow. Through a small investment, we could bring such a great income!"
In the aftermath of conflict, the ICRC seeks out the most vulnerable, often widows left after the death of their husbands to feed, house, clothe and educate large families, with little or no means. Huda Muttashar Naji is no exception. A widow too and mother of three children, who lost her husband during the violence of 2006 to 2008 and who, by her own admission, has traveled from the depths of despair.
“When my husband met martyrdom I suffered a lot," she says. "I had to force myself to take a decision. Nobody helped me. My family has limited resources. So I thought I have to improve my conditions and so I started to work at home.”
Huda has built up a beauty salon and hairdressing business in her own home slowly but surely, learning her craft formally and on the job. As part of its programme to support micro enterprises, the ICRC gave around 1,300 dollars to help her buy equipment. "At the beginning I was afraid. But then I found myself strong. The salon is good, thank God and I can cover all the expenses of the household."
Business has really taken off. She and her business partner pour over the trade magazines to offer their clients something new and regularly meet with ICRC mentors to discuss business planning. She is proud of what she has achieved on her own and supporting her family: "I was able to get my daughters married. My son now has two private teachers and I cover all the expenses of the household."
Evidence of a spirit of resilience, defiance and a determination to find a better future. Coupled to some modest, but targeted outside support, those qualities can take people in countries riven by conflict far.
The head of the ICRC's delegation in Baghdad, Patrick Youssef, puts it this way.
"The ICRC is extremely close to the communities. We adapt our situation to those who live with such insecurity - those people in need, who expect the ICRC to deliver and be able to assist them when they need to feel secure in their own country. And if we don’t do so then we fail them."
Facts and Figures
Location: Various, Iraq
Format: Mov HD & SD
Camera: Paul Anderson
Producer: Pawel Krzysiek, Paul Anderson & Nicola Fell
Editor: Nicola Fell
Sound: Arabic & English
ICRC ref: AV135N Iraq
Production dates: Nov 5 to Dec 9 2013
Copyright: ICRC access all
00’00 General street scenes in Baghdad, showing wides of streets and traffic, people walking along, general debris
00’14 CU of woman begging, showing close up of her hand
00’20 Wide shot of same woman begging, showing street con text
00’25 Wide shot showing mosque in down town Baghdad
00’32 CU of edge of market, showing young child by goods
00’38 wide shot of market scene with traders and people milling
00’43 CU of old man reading newspaper outside a mosque
00’47 Exterior shot showing car beside large ‘T’ wall in Baghdad
00’50 Tracking shot from car showing part of a ‘T’ wall section, blast proof structures which dominate Baghdad, particularly around markets foreign and government buildings.
00’56 Wide exterior shot showing house of Fawzia Ibrahim in her village of Al Qubashir, al Madain, outside Baghdad
01’01 Fawzia Ibrahim hanging out washing at her home, 01’09 cuts to shot showing her entering her kitchen and preparing tea on the stove.
01’30 SOUNDBITE Fawzia Ibrahim, widow, resident of village of al Qubashir, al Mada’in district Baghdad (in Arabic)
“During the events (conflict of 2006 to 2008) my husband went out in the night to get something. We didn’t hear any news from him after. His telephone was switched off. We didn’t even find the telephone.” (wipes tears away…)
01’46“When sectarian war happened to Iraq, we were forced to move. We went to Waasit governorate with nothing.”
01’51 CUs showing Fawzia washing dishes with details of threadbare kitchen.
02’11 wide shot shows Fawzia Ibrahim in kitchen making tea.
02’16 various exterior shots showing Fawzia Ibrahim with her son plating young tomato plants, including 02’57 close ups of the basic drip irrigation system ICRC procured for her.
02'59 SOUNDBITE Fawzia Ibrahim, widow, resident of village of al Qubashir, al Mada’in district Baghdad (in Arabic)
“It was a successful programme thank God. I didn't have any money. It became my source of livelihood. That`s it.”
03’07 Wide shots of Fawzia working on her plot of land. 03’21 shows her dealing with the generator.
03’30 Various shots of Fawzia with ICRC Economic Security field officer Haider Ibrahim and local “Awakening” leader Abu Khaldun.
03'55 SOUNDBITE Fawzia Ibrahim, widow, resident of village of al Qubashir, al Mada’in district Baghdad (in Arabic)
“Sure, there is fear. Now the situation is quite calm. But we are also afraid. Afraid of explosions. I am afraid of explosions. One time, when I heard bullets, I became crazy and went to the children’s schools.”
04’15 Various wide shots with Fawzia with the cow she was able to buy from the proceeds from her small holding
04’25 SOUNDBITE Haider Ibrahim, ICRC Field Officer for Economic Security, ECOSEC (in Arabic)
The project greatly affected her livelihood and increased her income and improved her living conditions. This project has been really advantageous to her. She started in a near destitute situation and now she has bought a cow. This is a great thing! This is a rural area. People value livestock. She feels a great achievement being able to buy a cow. Through a small investment, we could bring such a great income!"
05'01 Various of Baghdad and people at the market
05'33 Exterior shot of Huda's son entering the house
05'37 Various wide, mid and close up shots showing Micro Economic Initiative (MEI) beneficiary Huda Muttashar Naji (3rd from left in the black veil) in conversation with her business partner (in a coloured veil to her right) with Alaa Mustafa Abdul Rahman, field officer for economic security programme (in beige veil fourth from left).
06’19 Cutaway shot of photo of Huda’s husband.
06’31 to 06’22 SOUNDBITE Huda Muttashar Naji, widow, Baghdad (in Arabic)
“When my husband passed away, I suffered a lot in my life, really I suffered a lot. After that I realized I had to take a decision. I was very tired because there was no one to help me, and my family had limited income. I was thinking to start developing my own skills. So I started to work at home. I was working especially in women’s body treatments.”
07'00 Huda in her salon preparing to cut and cutting a woman’s hair…various CU details of the process. Cutaway of wedding photo of her daughter, who she made up. Cut hair falling on the floor.
07’41 SOUNDBITE Huda Muttashar Naji, widow, Baghdad (in Arabic)
“At the beginning I was afraid. I thought to myself, let me start gradually. But then I found that my strength returned. The salon is good thanks be to God. I renovated my house and the salon. I bought more things. I was able to get my daughters married without the support of anyone. My son has now got two private teachers. And I cover all the expenses of the household.”
08'12 Various mid and closer-up shots of Huda and her business partner, Wudian Suood, leafing through a fashion magazine, from which they say they get many of their ideas.
08’48 SOUNDBITE Huda Muttashar Naji, widow, Baghdad (in Arabic)
The salon is thanks god is good. I rehabilitated the salon. I brought more things. I was able to get my daughters married. My son now got two private teachers. and I cover all the expenses of the household, food clothes, .
09’16 Various details inside Huda’s salon, while she prepares for the day’s work, showing also details of the products inside.
09'29 SOUNDBITE Patrick Youssef, Head of Delegation, ICRC Baghdad (in English)
I think the ICRC is extremely close to the communities. We tend to adapt our situation to those who exactly live such insecurity. Those people who are in need, who expect the ICRC to deliver, to work and to be able to assist them when they need to feel secure in their own country. And if we don’t do so then we fail them.