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Years of war destroyed Iraq’s Old City, but locals bring their families back to rebuild their homes


Years of war destroyed Iraq’s Old City, but locals bring their families back to rebuild their homes

3 March 2021 Also available in:

Ashwaq was just four years old when ISIS took over her home city, Mosul, in Iraq. For the first three years of occupation, her father Saad kept Ashwaq indoors to protect her. But when the battle to retake the city was launched in 2016, the family was forced to flee fighting that was getting dangerously close to their home in Mosul’s historic Old City.  

For Saad, the most important thing was to keep his family safe. But the fighting left much of their old neighborhood in ruins and their home damaged, making it difficult to return even when the conflict was finally over.  


Repair homes under the cash-based interventions 

 Ashwaq, Saad and the rest of the family were finally able to return home last year with financial support from UNHCR. Through a cash-for-shelter programme led by UNHCR, hundreds of families like theirs have received cash for essential repairs, making it possible for them to fix up their homes and return. 

“I was very keen on going back to my old neighbourhood,” Saad recalls. “I want to bring life back to it”. 

And he’s done a great deal to do just that. Saad’s first priority after moving back was to reopen his metal welding workshop – and to help his neighbours. For a small cost, he helped other returnees fix their damaged water tanks and heaters. And when not all of them could afford to pay, he helped them for free.  


Mosul people deserve a second chance

“People deserve a second chance. Most of them are poor and they need a helping hand. We are all citizens of Mosul. Those of us who are able to should help those who are less fortunate than us,” Saad notes. 

After years of displacement, Ashwaq no longer recognizes her own neighbourhood. But Saad wants her to know the streets their family have called home for generations. Together, hand in hand, the father and the daughter walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings.  

 “All I want is for my children to live a good life,” Saad concludes. ” “I hope they have a good future in Mosul.” 


To learn more: 2020 Update and 2021 Plan




The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.