Mosul was obliterated by IS battle, British aid worker says
Madiha Raza said she has been changed by the harrowing experience of witnessing the humanitarian crisis first hand.
One of the first British aid workers to venture into Islamic State’s former Iraqi stronghold has described scenes of “Armageddon” amid the “catastrophic situation” which greeted her in Mosul.
Madiha Raza, who works for the British-based charity Muslim Aid, said she has been changed by the harrowing experience of witnessing the humanitarian crisis first hand.
The 29-year-old from Northwood, west London, recalled how seeing shoes, toys and backpacks amongst the rubble of a primary school destroyed by IS bombing was the most powerful part of her visit.
Speaking to the Press Association from northern Iraq, she said: “The entire city is just completely obliterated, it is like a movie set. What you can’t feel in the photos or smell is the death, sewage and smoke.
“When you are there it makes the reality really hit home. There is a huge humanitarian need, people have got nothing anymore, it is very, very sad. It is a catastrophic situation.”
Last week a “total victory” was declared by the Iraqi prime minister, after nearly a nine-month battle to liberate what is the country’s second biggest city from the extremists.
On the ground Muslim Aid’s teams are handing out food and water after they evacuate people to safer areas near checkpoints, and are providing portable latrines for the displaced civilians.
While she was in Mosul Ms Raza was helping at one of the charity’s distribution centres near one of the evacuation points.
Naming what is needed most, she said reconstruction, education, water and sanitation, and medical are the things “desperately” required on the ground.
“There is a lot to be done,” she added.
Ms Raza also visited Hammam al-Alil camp where more than 8,000 families are living in a “sea of tents”, and a primary school which was filled with people and destroyed by IS bombing.
“There were still bodies under the rubble, which hadn’t been cleared, and little tiny backpacks and shoes. Walking through that was horrific,” she said. “I couldn’t see them (the bodies), but knowing they were there, it was completely surreal. I don’t have the words to describe it actually… the school was the most powerful reminder of everything.”
Ms Raza said she kept a little shoe she found in the ruins of the school and described how there were also “toys everywhere”.
“People went there to shelter when the neighbourhood was being bombed by IS, because they thought IS wouldn’t bomb a school. But they did.”
Speaking to those who lived under the murderous rule of IS, she heard how some were used as human shields by the group’s fighters and “how easily they dished out punishments”.
“There was a woman who told me that she was cleaning the porch of her house, and covered head to toe, but they told her she was not wearing the traditional black abaya,” she said. “But they beat her for it.
“There was another little girl, she was 11 years old and her name was Wafa, she told us her brother was shot by a sniper. He was only 14, but he was helping people escape and they shot him for that. Hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth was something else – they just don’t discriminate – child, man, woman, it doesn’t matter.”