Zainab Mohammed, 39, is an example of a tireless woman who has faced dozens of obstacles in her life in displacement, but has managed to stand on her own feet. Amidst the difficult life of displacement and separation from her husband, she has big dreams, including raising her children and continuing their education, although it is a tough mission.
In mid-2014, when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS fighters stormed the province of Diyala and took large swathes of Iraq, Zainab and her husband fled the majority Sunni-Muslim Arab Baquba in fear of ISIS cruelty, with their three children to Kifri district in Garmian administration under Sulaymaniyah province.
They stayed in Kifri for a while, but life was very difficult for them. Rent and unemployment forced them to move to Sarqala sub-district, which belongs to Kifri district and is one of the disputed areas according to the Iraqi constitution.
There, Zainab worked on an agricultural field, and her husband worked as a laborer.
Later, in 2016, Zainab faced another tragedy when her husband divorced her, leaving her with all three children.
“One day he went to work and never came back. After a while I found out that he had married another woman and lives with her.” She had no other information about her husband.
Zainab has three children, an 11-year-old son and two daughters, nine and six.
“When my husband left me, I promised to stay with my children and raise them. I worked in an agricultural farm in a busy village for a daily wage and I still continue to do so.”
The first thing Zainab thinks about after her divorce is not to make her children's future and to send them to school, especially after they grow up.
To do so, she had to send her children to another village to study, which required transportation fees of at least 50,000 to 60,000 dinars a month (30-40USD), in addition to school supplies. She did the job, but could not continue, because of the fare. So, after a few months she dropped her children out of school.
Zainab didn’t give up
Zainab works daily from 7 am to 12:30 pm. After an hour of rest, she starts working again until 5 pm. She is paid 390,000 dinars a month. “This is my daily life.”
Her job includes growing vegetables, serving and running in several plastic houses.
“Every day and night, I thought that if my children did not go to school, their future would be lost. I didn't know what to do,” she said.
“I told my aunt to let my two older children stay at hers and study.” Last year, Zainab sent her two eldest children to Baghdad, who are now in the second grade of primary school.
“I see them every two or three months and we talk every day on Facebook,” she said.
What matters to me is that they don't lose their education
Zainab says she sends part of the money she receives daily to pay for her children and the rest to buy her family’s daily necessities.
Zainab is an example of hundreds of other displaced women who have lost their spouses due to war, displacement or other reasons, but have devoted all their efforts to raising their children.
“I am happy that my two children have gone back to school, but now I am worried about my youngest daughter, who is six years old and has to admit to school next year.”
"I don't want their future to be like mine. I studied for a year and then I was expelled. Now this is my life,” Zainab passionately said.