Go to main content

Sarah, human shield at 11

Iraq

Last April, Sarah and her father were injured in an explosion in Mosul, after being used as human shields. Sarah suffers from a fracture and is now convalescing in Hamdanyiah hospital. One of Handicap International’s physiotherapists pays her regular visits to help her recover from her injury. 

© T. Mayer / Handicap International

Sarah, 11, fled the city of Mosul. | © T. Mayer / Handicap International

Sarah is dozing, stretched out on her hospital bed. The doctors have come to give her some medication to dull the pain in her leg. Sitting in a chair next to her, her father holds her hand, lost in his thoughts. When Handicap International’s physiotherapist, Salam, knocks on the door of their room, Sarah’s father lifts his head and his daughter slowly opens her eyes. Salam has visited them almost every day since they first met at the hospital, last April. Salam checks Sarah’s bandages and begins another rehabilitation session. Although the pre-teenager greets each movement with a frown, she manages to do all of her physiotherapy exercises. Her father, obviously still shaken by their accident, patiently urges her on.

As Salam continues to do the exercises with Sarah, her father describes what happened to them.

“It happened on the 20th of April, this year. Some fighters came to get us and use us as human shields. We were taken to a room in what looked like a deserted house. Suddenly, there was a big explosion. I’ve no idea if it came from a tank or an aircraft. All I can remember is the pain and the blood. I got an eye wound and Sarah was injured in the leg.”

Sarah and her father were first taken to Mosul general hospital, where she had surgery. “But we fled the city at the first opportunity,” he says. “We passed by three different hospitals before we came here.”  This former English teacher seems overwhelmed by the events of the recent weeks and years. His old life and the memories of the school he worked in are still fresh in his mind. “There are no words to describe the last couple of years in Mosul. But what I find hardest to bear, is the impact it’s had on children’s lives, on my daughter’s life. Almost none of them has been to school since 2014. When they did go, they were indoctrinated. I didn’t want Sarah to go through that, so I taught her at home. She’s really bright and loves to draw and learn.”

Sarah’s father then shares their experience of being forced to stay indoors and their everyday problems. “We hardly ever ventured out of the house. We were like prisoners. I wasn’t teaching anymore. Imagine not earning any money for two years. Life was really hard. But I kept telling myself that it couldn’t last forever. That’s how we managed to keep going for so long.”

Sarah’s rehabilitation session comes to an end. “We’re going back to Mosul once my daughter has fully recovered,” her father adds. “We left our whole lives behind, not just our home. I want to start teaching again when the schools reopen. It’s really important, both for me and our children’s future. I want to do everything I can to make sure what happened to us never happens again.”

Where your
support
helps

PRESS CONTACT

CANADA

Gabriel PERRIAU

USA

Mica BEVINGTON

 

Help them
concretely

To go further

A frightening increase in the number of victims of explosive weapons
(c) E. Fourt/HI

A frightening increase in the number of victims of explosive weapons

On the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness, HI is alarmed by the frightening increase in the number of civilian victims of explosive weapons : 32,008 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2016 (out of a total of 45,624 victims), according to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). The toll looks even heavier for 2017, as civilians account for 90% of the victims of explosive weapons when they are used in populated areas. Landmine Monitor has recorded a dramatic increase in casualties of mine and explosive remnants over the past three years. Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen are among the main countries affected.

Mosul: “Most civilians still need humanitarian assistance”
© Blaise Kormann/L’illustré/Handicap International

Mosul: “Most civilians still need humanitarian assistance”

A year ago, on October 17th 2016, the armed forces launched a military offensive to retake the city of Mosul, in Iraq. More than one million civilians were displaced by the fighting, which lasted nine months, and over 18,000 people were injured. Below is an update on one of the region’s biggest humanitarian crises. 

“The bomb fell on my children”
E.Fourt / Handicap International

“The bomb fell on my children”

Omar, 11, was injured in a bomb attack in Mosul, last June. After having his left leg amputated, he is now being assisted by a team from Handicap International (HI) in Muharibeen hospital. The physiotherapists provide him with rehabilitation care.