October 28, 2021

Witnessing courage, strength and determination in Iraq

 Visiting Iraq, AVSI-USA’s Segen Moges had the opportunity to meet beneficiaries of “ASET,” a PRM-funded project to support vulnerable IDPs, returnees and host community while they rebuild their region

By Segen Moges, 
AVSI-USA Project Officer supporting the “Achieving socio-economic stability of returnees, host community, and IDP’s in Iraq (ASET)” project funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).
Photos by Sara Melotti

The Islamic State (ISIS) caused havoc when they seized 40% of Iraq. They invaded the country in 2014 and ruthlessly destroyed basic infrastructures and businesses. The word ‘sad’ doesn’t really describe what I witnessed; it was heart wrenching! It has already been 4 years since ISIS was defeated, yet as you drive through the streets of Qaraqosh, there are still reminders of the destruction ISIS caused.

Since the liberation of Mosul in late 2017, the number of Iraqi returnees is increasing, but battered by violence, returnees face environmental and economic hardships. Through “ASET”, AVSI is helping address the immediate needs by restoring the production capacity and income generating activities of vulnerable returnees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and host community in the agricultural and breeding sectors. “ASET” is now in its second year of implementation. A total of 10,300 individuals will benefit from poultry farming, sheep and calves breeding activities, and ornamental plants, mushroom, olives, and honey production activities by the end of 2022.

“I was breeding sheep for a long time in Sinjar and we had many animals. After ISIS came, we were forced to flee. We left everything behind: our properties and belongings. And we lost everything. 'ASET' gave me a second chance. I am now doing what I love, and I am good at it,” says Sevi Barakat Hnji Omar, one of the "ASET" beneficiaries I met during my trip.

In 2019, five years after being displaced,  Sevi lost her husband and moved to her son’s house, where she is the main caretaker of her other five children. Sevi is one of the 260 women supported by “ASET.” As part of the project, each host community farmer selected makes their farm available to one IDP to breed their flock. Through “ASET,” Sevi received 28 sheep (27 ewes and 1 ram) and shares an additional sheep (ram) with the host community member. She has also received vaccinations for her sheep, fodder, and veterinary services for 7 months. 

“For an old woman like me, it is difficult to find a job. Thanks to "ASET," I now have an income that allows me to feed my family,” said Sevi.

AVSI works with people, fostering awareness of their value and dignity to become protagonists of their own development. Through “ASET,” AVSI is proud to reach 10,300 participants through different interventions including activities that enable social cohesion. The social and economic reconstruction of Iraq will take time and AVSI will proudly walk side by side with the most vulnerable Iraqi’s until they are self-resilient, providing support while they rebuild their lives.

It was my privilege to have had a firsthand encounter with courageous people like Sevi and hear their stories. Witnessing their undeniable courage, hope, and resilience is inspiring. It is humbling. It puts life in perspective.