6 countries, 6 conflicts, 6 stories of people who are #NotATargetPublished: Aug 14, 2018 Reading time: 7 minutes
Adbul Rahman in Syria, Falah in Iraq, Olga in Ukraine, Htu Bu in Myanmar, Salim in Bangladesh or Helene in Angola - none of them thought they would experience armed conflict and violence. But they all realized one day that they are in the middle of it. Some of them are dealing with the burden of trauma, displacement and loss for few last months, others for years. They don’t know each other, they’ve never met. But they have something in common. They are real people, not statistics. They are #NotATarget. They met humanitarian workers from People in Need who are doing their best to support them as they rebuild their lives. Take five minutes to read their stories and share in solidarity.
We lived under siege and now we are displaced
We met Abdul-Rahman in the south of Idlib province in Syria, but he is originally from the southern countryside of Damascus. The 50-year-old father of three boys and one girl moved to the capital back in 2000 and started to work as a driver in the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees. Everything went well and the family was even able to rent and later buy a small house. But a few years ago the war stormed into their lives. „We lived under siege since 2014 and a few months ago we were displaced to the small village of Ihsem in Idlib,“ Abdul-Rahman explains. „The most painful things to lose were my home, my car, everything I had ever saved and my children‘s chances at education,“ he says. Abdul-Rahman received a cash grant from People in Need. „Aid helps a little, it alleviates burdens,“ he says, adding that he hopes the situation will improve in Syria. „I do ask Allah that things will get better and Syrians will no longer suffer.“
ISIL used us as human shields
Falah lives in the Iraqi city of Mosul. It is his home, but also the place where he experienced the worst moments of his life. Everything started back in 2009. “Before ISIL entered Mosul city, the worst thing for me was losing my father. They were present in the form of terrorist groups inside the country earlier and they killed my father,” Falah says. During ISIL’s rule, people were not allowed to speak to fighters, they controlled everything in the city. Inhabitants had no choice but to respect their brutal system and were afraid to do anything, according to Falah. "We were not treated like humans but like animals," Falah says. "When the Iraqi government was trying to retake the area, ISIL would put us, civilians, in front of them and use us as human shields," he adds. Now, after Mosul was retaken from ISIL, life is very slowly coming back and non-government organizations are supporting the local people. “I like People in Need’s idea. Instead of money, you gave vouchers to the citizen and have agreed with the markets to provide them with building materials, or paints or glass,” Falah describes the support and adds that these are exactly the kind of things they need to reconstruct their homes. The trauma after the rule of ISIL remains and it will take generations to fully recover. "Now when someone dies or is killed in an explosion, it is normal, no one cares, because that’s what we learned in the war with ISIL," Falah says. When he considers the current situation, Falah says he sees no future in Iraq.
Humans are not made for war
Olga is one of 3.4 million victims of an almost forgotten conflict in eastern Ukraine. Everything started back in 2014 for Olga, 33, when fighting erupted in her native town, now located in non-government controlled areas of Ukraine. "I had to flee with my husband and two children to another town. Finally we settled in Slavyansk," she explains. The mother of 5- and 6-year old boys misses being able to communicate freely with relatives who remained in non-government controlled areas. The frontline separated the family. "We see them less often, definitely not as often as we would like. It’s because we need to cross the checkpoint," she explains. The beginning of life after displacement is far from easy, but humanitarian organizations have provided valuable help. "When we arrived in Slavyansk, we received assistance for our children and ourselves," Olga recalls. "This is really great support for those who had to leave most of their property back home and start a new life." The support continues today, and thanks to a a cash grant from People in Need, Olga was able to start her own small business. She creates handmade products using scrapbooking method. "I am now financially supporting my family, which makes me happy," Olga says. Her biggest wish? "I wish there was no war anywhere. Every human should do something valuable and good on this planet. Humans are not made for war."
We fled to survive
Kachin State in northern Myanmar has been squeezed by conflict between the army of Myanmar and the Kachin Independence Army since 1962. Thousands of people fled the violence as fighting erupted once again a few months ago. Htu Bu from Aura village was among them. The mother of three sons lived a quiet life and worked in agroforestry; everything changed on the 27th of April. "The May Kha’s water was rising while there was fighting ongoing around the upper and lower course of the river," Htu Bu says. "As there is only one main road, we were afraid that if the river flooded we would not have a safe way out, and we might be in even more danger. So we decided to move from our village." The family left behind farmland, cattle, rice paddy and their barn. "We lost all of that. We had not even carried any kitchen tools, clothes or food with us. We fled to survive," she says of the chaotic April days. They finally reached Wai Maw camp for displaced people on May 19th. "When we arrived at the camp, we received clothes, food and cooking tools thanks to the NGOs, religious organizations and other institutions," Htu Bu says, adding that this assistance was essential. Though she wishes to own a house, land for farming, and have a safe way for her kids to go back to school, her future is very uncertain now. When asked her biggest wish, Htu Bu answers: "For all of use displaced here it is to be able to go back home and to live like we did before the displacement. State and national governments should reach agreements and work for peace.”
We were not allowed to live and move freely
Salim is one of almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Salim’s family, including six children, is now living in the Kutupalong makeshift camp in southern Bangladesh. In the middle of the world’s largest refugee camp, he recalls the persecution they faced. "We were not allowed to live and move freely; we were not allowed to practice our religion freely," Salim says. "We were not allowed to educate our children; we were not allowed to move from one village to another." After intense violence erupted in August 2017, Salim’s family had to flee Rakhine state to start a new life in Bangladesh. "I had to leave a lot of property I had there. We had to flee here from our motherland," he says, describing his biggest loss. "Thanks to aid, we are able to feed our children, and save our lives," he says. And what is his biggest wish? "Currently we are not able to educate our children; I really want to educate them."
The worst thing is to be separated from children
Violence and ethnic tension in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai Province has forced tens of thousands of Congolese to seek safety in Angola's Lunda Norte Province. We met Helene, a mother of five, in Lóvua settlement. "Here I am with just with two of my children; three stayed in Congo," she says. Apart from violence and very unstable security situation in Kasai, family reasons contributed to her decision to seek refuge in a foreign country. "I have lost my father and this also forced me to come to Angola," she explains. The life of a refugee is far from easy. For Helene, the worst thing is being separated from her children. "I consider humanitarian aid like something to eat and water. All those things that help us," Helene says. But it’s hard to plan for the future at the moment. "I wish to have a stabilized life, so I can start to build a future," she says.