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23rd February 2024

Women from Iraq have shared powerful stories of faith and strength in the face of adversity as part of two special SAT‑7 documentaries that highlighted the resilience of the Church in a country blighted by conflict and instability.

The stories reveal the impact of war and persecution on women in particular as they seek to care for their families, but also how – with help from the Lord – they are a source of strength to others in the most heartbreaking circumstances.

One of the women featured in the documentary is Thaera Hikmat, who lost her husband in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) and was left to raise their two children, just three and four years old at the time, on her own. On top of this, the conflict forced them to relocate from Mosul to Qaraqosh. “Life was difficult there financially. My children and I struggled,” Thaera said.

The family later had to flee again, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, when so-called Islamic State militants seized Qaraqosh in 2014. She went to Erbil in the semi-autonomous Kurdish north, where, she explained, they found safety.

But after many years of suffering and hardship, there was further heartache to come for Thaera. She was called to Baghdad to support her niece, who was pregnant with twins, during the birth. Tragically, a medical error led to her niece’s death during the delivery, leaving the newborn twin boys without a mother.

“The father said he couldn’t raise them and didn’t have anyone to help,” Thaera said. “I asked if I could take them with me, and he agreed.”

The boys, Ramy and Rayyan, are now six years old, and one of them has brain damage, which was not discovered until a year after his difficult birth. But Thaera testified to God’s help in raising the boys: “Thank the Lord, for He gave me the love and strength to care for them. I wake up every day with a renewed strength for them. God is my strength and help. It is a calling from God; the more I give them, the more joyful I feel.”

In a message of hope to others facing challenging situations, Thaera said, “No matter what difficulties we face, we will overcome them with our faith and love for Jesus Christ.”

Inspiring Project

As well as showing the role and impact of Iraqi women in their own families, the documentary also highlighted an inspiring women-led project that is helping the refugee community in Erbil.

The Hopeful Hands workshop was started by a Christian woman in 2017 to provide employment for refugee women. The project is managed by her daughter, Nour Baythoun, who explained what they do:

“My mother loves sewing and has experience in it, so she decided to help women who need to make money and have free time. We give them a course for a month; then they start working. We employ around 100 women refugees. We are happy because we are not just supporting women to work for money but also helping them feel self-fulfilled.”

One of the beneficiaries is a woman called Jumana from Syria. She had to flee her homeland after her house was struck by a missile; Jumana was badly injured and had to have a leg amputated. She came to Erbil with her family. “I was worried about how I would help my children and work in this condition,” Jumana said. “When the prosthetic leg was installed, the skin was affected and there were blisters and sores. I felt weak.” But with the help of Hopeful Hands, Jumana is now able to provide for her family within a caring and supportive community.

Another beneficiary of the project is Shahrestan, a non-Christian woman from Mosul who was displaced from her home and came to Erbil.“When we first came here, it was difficult financially,” she said. “We struggled and had many problems.” The strain caused Shahrestan and her husband to separate, and she was left to care for their disabled grown-up son alone.

“Thank God, Hopeful Hands supported me,” Shahrestan said. “I didn’t feel any different being non-Christian. I feel I am useful for my family and can provide for them. I don’t feel useless anymore. My life is better. It was like I was in darkness and now I can see.”

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