Portraits of Hope

Stories from young people affected by conflict in Iraq

Innocent Kafembe
A boy with his blue UNICEF backpack in his village in Iraq 2019
12 February 2022

Girl on a mission - Asmaa’s story 

Asmaa (not her real name) is a 16-year-old girl who used to live in a village in the Salah al-Din Governorate of Iraq. She left school aged nine years old when militants took over their village. Her father and family joined the armed groups and they fled when confrontations began with the Iraq government due to fear of arrest. First the family escaped to the city of Mosul and settled there for about two months and then they proceeded to Syria where they stayed for six years.  

When her father, uncle and aunt passed away in battle Asmaa and her mother returned to Iraq with her children to Iraq,however they were arrested and spent more than 5 years in prison. 

Upon release the family moved to a camp for the displaced in the North of Iraq as they could not return to their original area because the community refused to allow their return. Asmaa and her family have settled well in the camp and are looking ahead to the future. Asmaa lives with her mother and her siblings in a big family with 10 people.  

Asmaa spends her day in the camp mostly assisting her mother with household chores “I wake up in the morning and help my mother with simple household chores”, she says. 

Asmaa is living with a disability since childhood and that prevents her from doing other work freely. She does not want to work in the future, and she believes that working for herself running a business is the best choice for her. 

A Non-Governmental Organization supported by UNICEF in Iraq was able to open a case management file for Asmaa after obtaining her consent. The organization is providing psychological and social support sessions, as well as awareness and education sessions for parents. 

Asmaa is determined to succeed in life, she now wants to get a sewing machine to occupy herself and work on it in her spare time and wants to support her family through sewing because her family is going through a very difficult economic situation.  

Asmaa is passionate about her community and requested more support from UNICEF and the Non Governmental Organisation for children, especially those living with disabilities and from poor backgrounds. 


Zaid’s road to success  

Zaid (not his real name) is a 15-year-old boy living in one of the camps for displaced populations in Northern Iraq. Zaid and his family had to flee their village and live in Mosul during the conflict in Iraq before they finally settled in the camp.  

Zaid lost his father during the conflict, with his four siblings they moved to the camp where they reside until now. 

Zaid suffers from psychological problems that have affected him greatly, especially since he has been in contact with the law and is restricted from leaving the camp freely. A case management file for Zaid was opened by a Non-Governmental Organization supported by UNICEF to assist Zaid with psychosocial support and with reintegrating Zaid and his family into the community.  

Zaid is undergoing vocational training to acquire a profession, which will open opportunities for him to find a job opportunity while he is inside the camp,  

Zaid wishes to be a successful business owner in future so he can support his family and contribute to his community. 


When determination meets courage -Salem’s story 

Salem (not his real name) is a 15-year-old boy living in one of the camps for displaced populations in Iraq. Salem was affected by the conflict in Iraq at an early age and this resulted in him leaving school and moving from his village.  

Salem lost his father and two of his brothers in the conflict in Iraq and following this he moved with his sisters and brothers to live in a camp where they remain currently. 

Salem’s mother was detained by the authorities, and he has not seen her in many years. These experiences and these circumstances have had a great impact on Salem’s life and on his psychological and social situation. 

With support from UNICEF, and a Non-Governmental Organization, opened a case management file to provide Salem with psychosocial support sessions, as well as awareness sessions to his caregivers. 

 Salem joined the activities provided by the Non Governmental Organisation and with the support of UNICEF to reintegrate young people who have been in conflict with the law, where Salem participated in vocational training. This will increase opportunities for him to find a job opportunity that would help reintegrate him into society and enable him to provide for his most basic needs. 

“I will never forget the conflict and the mistakes I made, my family has gone through a lot and from now I want to be a peer educator for young people to stay away from conflict and anything that violates the law” he says.