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From Tents to Abandoned Malls: Hiding From ISIS

Vernon Brewer
Oct 26, 2014

Saleem and his family of 11 are from the village of Shangal in Northern Iraq. When ISIS marched through Saleem’s hometown, homes and businesses were ransacked and all weapons confiscated. Civilians were mercilessly harassed and attacked for owning anything “illegal,” and all were stripped of any valuables they had.


Then the murders began. Children ran, screaming with terror. Mangled bodies lay scattered in the streets where packs of hungry dogs tore them apart.

Saleem frantically gathered his wife and 10 children, cramming them into one vehicle to escape. His 14- year-old son has special needs, making it very difficult for him to walk, so Saleem carried him. They brought no belongings, no money, no food, no water. All they had left were their lives . . . and they, too, were hanging in the balance.

Finally, they reached the tent cities of Ankawa, where they have lived in utter desolation for two months. Saleem has been unable to find work and relies solely on the generosity of strangers to feed his children. They are forced to rummage through garbage most days just to survive.

Refugee familySaleem, his wife, and several of his children scrape together a family meal.

“I’m grateful we are safe from ISIS. Only months ago, I had a successful job, a home, and money to feed my family. Now, I am a scavenger with no options left,” he told me, hanging his head in shame and sorrow.

After serving in the tent communities, our team went to an abandoned shopping mall where over 1,500 refugees are crammed into partially built structures for shelter. Three to four families are assigned to each tiny, sectioned-off unit, which serve as the only semblance of privacy.

Iraqi refugees seek shelter in abandoned mall

The conditions of the buildings were terrible: dark and dimly lit corners, rundown staircases, filth and open sewage, broken escalators, and exposed electrical wiring. The walls are paper thin, offering no shelter from the elements or protection from danger. There is no work, no food, and no hope.

Watch this short video to get a glimpse at what these refugees experience every day:

Watch On the Frontline: Iraqis in Hiding from World Help on Vimeo.

Children wander in the alleyways trying to occupy themselves with something to do. Many are too afraid to venture far from their shelters and simply huddle in the doorways and blankly stare ahead. I fear for their safety, for their futures inside the walls of this hopeless place.

Refugee children in Iraq

Emergency supplies are needed here now more than ever before. With winter on its way, it won’t be long before these children will be up against below-freezing temperatures, disease, exposure, and starvation.

I’m urging each one of you to play an active role in our relief efforts for these persecuted believers. If we do not act today, tomorrow and in the many weeks to come, our brothers and sisters won’t just continue to suffer, they will perish. Their children will perish. An entire remnant of believers will be extinguished if we do not respond immediately.

Join me today. Your gift can literally help save a life.


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