War widows are among the most vulnerable people displaced by conflict in Mosul.

As she fled her neighbourhood in western Mosul, Asmaa Mahmood, her husband and their two young daughters came under heavy fire from militant extremists. They were captured and the men and women were separated.

“They took my husband and we had to just keep going,” she says. “We escaped and we hid in abandoned houses until we made it to the camp.”

Two weeks after reaching the safety of UNHCR’s Hammam Al-Alil camp, Asmaa learned from other displaced Mosul residents that her husband had been killed. They had found his body and buried him.

Thousands of women have lost their husbands to conflict in Mosul

Asmaa’s two-year-old daughter Bedoor sits inside their tent at Hammam al-Alil camp. Asmaa is raising two children alone with no income. 

“I was shocked and I suffered from psychological trauma and grief,” she says.

In Hammam al-Alil 2 camp, households headed by widows like Asmaa make up more than a quarter of the 4,500 families who live there. Many of their husbands were murdered by armed extremists. Others were killed in air strikes, or were shot by artillery as they fled across the front lines. In many cases these husbands were the families’ sole breadwinner.

Without an income and often with children to support, Mosul’s war widows are among the most vulnerable people to have been displaced during the months of fighting for the city.

Since reaching the camp in April, Asmaa and her daughters, aged two and four, have received a tent, mattresses, blankets and items including kitchen utensils from UNHCR as part of the distribution of relief supplies given to new arrivals.

Asmaa has also received legal aid and assistance with replacing missing documents, including her government ID, which is vital to receiving benefits.

Over 570,000 people displaced by the Mosul conflict have been assisted by UNHCR and its partners since military operations to retake the city began late last year. In July, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that Mosul was back under government control.

Despite the massive damage to houses and infrastructure, some people are choosing to return home. UNHCR is providing residents with ‘sealing off’ kits that include timber, hammers, nails, wire, ropes, planks of wood and plastic sheets so that families can set up a shelter or secure a space amidst the ruins.

Asmaa plans to remain in Hammam al-Alil 2 camp until she finds a job and can support her family.

“I am so exhausted worrying about the future of my children. Now I have no-one to rely on. I don’t worry about myself. I just don’t want my daughters to feel different from any other girls who have a father.’’

Iraqi families just like Asmaa’s urgently need your help. UNHCR is on the ground protecting those most at risk, but we are critically short of funds to assist vulnerable children, women and men displaced by conflict.

Please make a donation today and give hope to a refugee family in crisis.

Asmaa is one of thousands of war widows among the estimated 900,000 people who have fled from Mosul.

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