A mother and son were reunited after being separated while fleeing the Islamic State’s grip in Mosul, Iraq.
Mohammed Mowaffaq was only a young boy when he was forced to flee his home. “Our life was good [in Mosul] until they came from nowhere and war started. We used to go to school but they destroyed even that,” said Mohammed in this UNICEF video.
“I tried to escape four times but got caught. The last time we tried to escape they caught us. They held a knife to my throat and we couldn’t escape.”
But his mother, Wathha Hadifah, worried for her son in the besieged city and believed it was time for Mohammed to flee their Tanak neighborhood.
“I sent Mohammed ahead of me because the last time he was caught… you know what happened… no need for me to explain,” said Wathha.
The Mowaffaq family was all too aware of the stakes. Mohammed’s father, a driver, was killed three years earlier after being suspected of smuggling people out of Mosul.
Mohammed successfully escaped with his cousin, but not until after shepherds spotted the two and fired mortars at them.
Three months later, his mother was able to flee with the rest of her young family while barefoot and in the cold – but Wathha had no idea if her son made it out alive. This is a common occurrence in war-torn Iraq. Since 2014, more than 4,650 children have become separated or are unaccompanied by their families in Iraq, according to UNICEF.
The family was later reunited by UNICEF (which made this video). “When I saw my mother I was so happy. I hugged her and started to cry,” said Mohammed.
Wathha said she does not plan to return to Mosul.
“I will never go back after what I’ve experienced. My family were dying in front of me. They were starving to death. I can’t go back.” Credit: UNICEF Iraq via Storyful