Human Rights

Grandmother supports 22 orphaned children in Mosul, Iraq


Sanaa lost three of her children in the war against ISIS in Mosul and now she works day and night to care for the needs of 22 orphaned children.

In Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, one elderly lady has taken it upon herself to adopt 22 children who were left without their parents during the city’s occupation by ISIS militants. Sanaa Ibrahim, who lives in Mosul with her husband, decided to adopt the children following the death of her own children at the hands of ISIS.

Of Sanaa’s five children, three had enrolled in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to fight against ISIS militants between October 2016 and July 2017. However, all three of Sanaa’s children that fought in the ISF passed away in the fighting and she has not yet received any of their bodies to provide them with a proper burial. Sanaa now works tirelessly to care for her adopted children, who are aged between two and 16.

Sanaa currently manages the daily needs of the children through donations made to her by individuals and by charitable groups. However, she has appealed to the Iraqi Government to extend its support to the children by providing them with a better home and with greater resources. Although Sanaa is coping for the time being, her old age and worsening health, in addition to the progression of her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease, means that she is concerned for the children’s future.

“[I want the children to be] given a steady income and a home, I will not live 100 years, I will die one day. I’m ill and in pain,” said Sanaa. “I’m living with them now, but I might not be around next year. All I want is to ensure their future, by making my home an orphanage.”

6,200 children were orphaned in Nineveh Province during the ISIS occupation and in the subsequent battle to eliminate the militant presence. Many of these orphans have since been forced to work to help support themselves and any family they may still have. Many of the children earn money on the streets of Mosul selling tissues, cold water bottles and other goods. However, the issue of child labour amongst orphaned children is not restricted to Nineveh; children in the city of Baquba have also been forced into street work.

In February this year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a report stating that one in four Iraqis are living in poverty and more that three-million children have had their educated interrupted by the effects of conflict in the past four years. For Sanaa Ibrahim and her husband, despite the hardship they endure, their work in caring for their 22 adopted children will help provide a better future for them and keep them away from the danger of the streets.