Thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by the battle for Mosul, and the fight continues. Some outlying towns have already been cleared of ISIS as Iraqi and coalition forces close in on the city center.
One of these newly liberated villages, Wardak, is just outside Mosul. To reach Wardak our team drove through two previous front lines where coalition forces had stood their ground against ISIS less than three weeks ago.
A heaviness was in the air as we took in the visible aftermath. We saw trenches and berms where soldiers fought, piles of rock that had replaced houses, and the desert floor holding craters made from bombs.
The entire town of Wardak fled during 2014 when ISIS first took control of Mosul. Now, two years later, their hometown is free from ISIS. Despite the war-ravaged land, they have bravely returned.
The village leader, Ibrahim, said that although nothing is left they are glad to be back. Even his 12-year-old son, Ahmed, said that he felt happiness and joy when he finally saw his village again. They are thankful to be home—even though their home is no longer recognizable.
Samaritan’s Purse organized a distribution to help Iraqis returning to Wardak. As winter creeps in, we knew it was vital to quickly get blankets, cook stoves, tarp, and food into their hands.
I helped one family carry their supplies back home and saw firsthand the damage the battle left behind. All that remained of their home was a concrete shell. The neighboring house had completely collapsed in an explosion.
Before receiving supplies at our distribution this family slept on a cold, concrete floor with wind whipping through broken windows. Now, they are shielded from the elements by durable tarp and they sleep wrapped in warm, fleece blankets.
These items gave Wardak residents the gift of remaining in their hometown—something they have longed for since 2014. Their determination is remarkable as they courageously begin rebuilding their lives and focusing on good things ahead.