The reality of living in Iraq in 2014 and why I finally said ‘enough’….

Sura al Wakeel writing for

Sura al Wakeel writing for

My name is Sura Al-Wakeel, born in 1981 in Baghdad, Iraq. My childhood was dogged by the Iraqi-Iranian war, the sounds of missiles, air raids sirens, news of martyrs and P.O.Ws. I had a good childhood, but the effects of war touched everything, even our immediate environment – the land around us, was contaminated as side-effect of the conflict.

Years have passed and I am now an adult.  Of course some wonderful things have happened in these years, meeting my beloved husband and giving birth to my darling children, Taim and Tia, for example. But the environment of war and political conflict means death and destruction have been my ‘daily meal’. What has kept me going, even in my darkest times though, has been hope. No matter how bad things got I kept telling myself that our patience would pay off, that maybe the day would come when the peace and security that we’ve been longing for would somehow come about…

Taim and Tia are both still under 5 and hope has finally faded. In fact, in the few years they have been alive my fear has just got bigger and bigger. As a mother it is my fundamental duty to protect my children – but with the political situation worsening every day this instinctive need, despite having successful and stable family life and job, has become increasingly elusive.

I love being an editorial executive for Nina and my husband is a successful translator. However, having a job you are proud of and a good marriage becomes almost meaningless if life is lived in an environment of constant tension and fear.  In our streets explosions happen at will – all day, every day. Any minute you expect to hear the worst, and many families do. In Baghdad and across Iraq death is a daily reality. Individual tragedies are replayed hundreds, thousands of times … a woman conceives her child in her womb, she spends countless nights taking care of him until he becomes a man and a fraction of a second sees him turned into bits and pieces by an explosion. My husband and I have seen shreds of human flesh scattered in the streets many times.

I’d like to make my point more strongly by illustrating the reality of our daily existence. We wake up next to each other and then get the children ready for daycare – quite typical so far. But then our narrative changes. Unlike parents getting ready for work in other parts of the world, we don’t know if any of us will be coming back home in one piece. By the time we are all together again in the evening, part of me has died a thousand times. Are my children OK, my husband, my mother? Even the many telephone calls between me and my husband, me and the school and even the school driver don’t reassure me enough. I am constantly worried sick. When everybody is inside the house, I am finally able to catch my breath. Although luckily every one of our days in Iraq did come to a peaceful end, the fear of a ‘never -changing’ tomorrow was constant.

In early June I reached boiling point, ISIS had just entered Mosul and the situation had become even more frightening. I cried out loud: Enough! Despite a heart full of love and sorrow we made arrangements to leave Iraq.

TodayI am part of a community of Iraqi expatriate women who have started walking a new path in a new country. This path is also hard, it requires patience and strength. But when I hear my children’s laughter echoing from outside, I realize fear is no longer at the center of my being.

I will carry on working with Nina Magazine, as I firmly believe that Nina gives people like me a voice. My voice is that of all Iraqi woman. We all recognise bits of my story and by sharing ‘me’ I am able to offer truths all women should hear. As a forum for Iraqi women everywhere, Nina offers hope, creating a network of connected Iraqi women around the world.

I am very grateful to God Almighty for the safety of my children and I pray to Him to preserve and save all Iraqis. I pray to Him to bless Iraq with peace, to stop all the killing of innocents who are being murdered just because they were born as Iraqis – this catastrophe must be stopped for all our sakes!

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