Saja is twelve years old, although she looks younger. The house in Mosul where she used to live with her aunt collapsed due to a bombing; her mother Zahra found her trapped by dead bodies, the body full of shrapnel, with no voice. She was so traumatized that she did not allow anyone to touch her.
“What was Saja’s life in Mosul like?”, I ask Zahra when I meet her in the Emergency Hospital in Erbil, Iraq. Saja, like most children, has not been able to attend school for years. The school curriculum had been changed to teach children lessons of war: “Children were not even allowed to draw cartoon images to decorate the classrooms … even those were haram: it is forbidden to depict any living creature.”
Haram describes everything that is forbidden, while halal is all that is permitted by Sharia, according to the strict interpretation by ISIS.
“All men were forced to grow beards and women had to wear burqas. Beatings and electric shocks were the punishment for those who disobeyed. The use of mobile phones was not permitted, as well as smoking cigarettes or wearing jeans. Despite the scarcity of food, we could not even eat frozen meat, it was considered haram”, says Zahra.
On 9 July, after three years of ISIS domination over the city and eight months of fighting, Mosul was liberated. There is no more ‘haram’ and ‘halal’, but the ruins of the city remain. About a million people are displaced and thousands of civilians have been killed. Many people still need our help. Since January, we have treated over 829 victims of the conflict in Erbil: more than 40% were women or children.
– Rossella, EMERGENCY staff