Refugee Stories

Refugee family flees the violence of Mosul

For the two years after militants overtook Mosul, Mahmoud Ahmad, his wife Dalal and their children lived a life of hardship, fear and oppression.

Out of work, this dedicated father drained the family’s savings and sold Dalal’s jewelry to survive. She feared going out in public. The children did not play outside.

As the battle around Mosul got closer, their family was in even graver risk. They were left with no choice, Mahmoud and his family fled with nothing but the clothes on their back. Despite a perilous journey and an uncertain fate, the Ahmads were overjoyed when they arrived safely and found freedom at the UNHCR-supported Khazer camp, near Hasansham village, about 18 miles from their home in Mosul. This camp immediately changed their hope for the future.

“Being here now is like a release — from a dark prison into the light,” Mahmoud said. For the first time in a long time, he has reason to smile. He hasn’t stopped since arriving at Khazer last month.

"I rarely smiled in Mosul. But after I fled, I started smiling and joking again. I got my freedom back."

Mahmoud’s joy and optimism are infectious, lifting the spirits of everyone around him: “I love his smile and the jokes he makes. It’s such a relief,” says Dalal.

Meet Mahmoud and his family:



The Ahmads are among a rapidly growing number of people fleeing as fighting escalated in the more densely populated urban areas of Mosul. Since the start of the military campaign on October 17, about two-thirds of the 60,000 people who have escaped did so during the first two weeks of November. Nearly half are children and more than half are women and girls, including many female-headed households — the most at-risk groups.

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USA for UNHCR donors are reaching these people in need with protection and assistance, including adequate shelter, mattresses, stoves, kitchen supplies, water, hygiene kits, jerry cans for fuel and more. As temperatures plummet, UNHCR is increasing their efforts to provide lifesaving winter items, including:

    • Plastic tarps and thermal insulation to keep tents warm and dry
    • Blankets
    • Heating stoves and fuel
    • Warm clothes and shoes
    • Cash assistance

But with more families arriving at camps every day, even colder days ahead and a critical funding shortage, UNHCR’s ability to keep everyone warm and safe is in jeopardy.

Your help is needed….

UNHCR is facing a severe shortage in the funds needed to keep Mahmoud, his family and the millions of refugees and displaced people fleeing violence warm and safe this winter. Your gift will help close the gap, and give vulnerable children, women and men hope for a future as bright as Mahmoud’s smile. Not just for winter, but every day of the year, around the world. Please be generous.


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