Zeinab's mother-in-law and children. Zeinab* could not be portrayed due to security

"Islamic State threatened us - and they took my brother"

In an camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) not far from Mosul, Zeinab* sits with her five children. They fled the so-called Islamic State four months ago, after the group had taken her 20-year-old brother. The family has not seen him since.


Zeinab and her five children live in a small tent in Debaga camp in Northern Iraq, not far from the city of Mosul, where fighting to re-capture the city from the Islamic State are ongoing. Zeinab and her family lived one and a half year under the control of the so-called Islamic State, but they managed to flee four months ago.

"We fled because Daesh (Arabic word for the so-called Islamic State, ed.) continued to threaten us. One day they came and took my little brother who is only 20 years old and we haven't seen nor heard from him since. Daesh said they would come back the day after to punish us, and therefore we decided to flee. It took us many hours on foot before we ended up here in camp," Zeinab explains.

Zeinab's husband has been enrolled in the Iraqi army and is now fighting against Islamic State. Previously, he lived with them in the camp, but now he is at the front line. Zeinab and her family is very happy to have ended up in safety.

"We are very happy with life in the camp. There is no longer a threat from Daesh, and organizations like the Danish Refugee Council assists us. My children can not go to school and this makes me sad but we hope that we soon can return to our village," Zeinab says.

They still have family members in their village, Kharbata, and they tell them that the family's house was destroyed by the fighting, but the family members back in Kharbata have said that they have room for the family if they return. And the family has just received good news - but Zeinab repeatedly stresses that she must have clear security guarantees before she will take her children back.

"My dream is that one day we can return to Kharbata. We have in fact just heard that our village was liberated yesterday. However, we will not return until it is completely safe to return. When Daesh is no longer present and we do not risk that there are bombs or other unexploded ordnance from the fighting," Zeinab underlines.

The Danish Refugee Council is responsible for water and sanitation in Debaga camp, located south of Mosul. On this day Zeinab's family receive a hygiene kit from the Danish Refugee Council, while the organization's volunteers provide information on good hygiene in a difficult situation where diseases easily can evolve. A total of 20,000 IDPs live in Debaga - and the majority have come over the past two years from the areas around Mosul. The most recently arrived people have only been in Debaga a few days.

*Zeinab is not a her real name, due to her and the husband's safety. For the same reason, it is not her in the picture, but her mother in law, who also lives in the camp.

Read here how DRC prepares to the expected large-scale displacement from Mosul