Love in displacement Written by Raber Y. Aziz, Contribution from Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, 2018

Marwah always dreamed of a big wedding party in a fancy venue, a luxurious white wedding dress, and hundreds of family and friends attending. But this dream was shattered when ISIL took over the city of Mosul in June 2014, where she was living at the time.

Marwah and her family chose to stay in the ISIL-controlled city. She felt trapped and hopeless, and her big wedding plans became an impossible dream: traditional wedding ceremonies that included music, dancing, and mingling between men and women were strictly forbidden by ISIL.

Returnees cross the Tigris River, that splits Mosul city into East and West banks, on a temporary floating bridge after the city was retaken from ISIL. Raber Aziz/IOM Iraq, 2017

In mid 2016, when military operations to retake Mosul started, Marwah’s family fled to Hammam Al Alil, southeast of the city —an area under the control of the Iraqi forces. The family subsequently moved to Haj Ali camp, farther south, where they were reunited with other family and friends, including Mohammed. They fell in love. A year later, they got engaged, and two years into their engagement, they decided to get married in the camp, despite the difficulties and in stark contrast to the wedding that Marwah had dreamed of.

Marwah fell in love with Mohammed during displacement. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, 2018
Mohammed in his decorated tent, prepared for the wedding; beneficiaries of IOM-sponsored carpentry course at Haj Ali Camp made the chest of drawers. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, 2018
“I don’t care if we are in a tent. We love each other and that’s all that matters. We agreed to stay together forever and I told him that I would be with him in any situation,” said Marwah.
Haj Ali camp, built by IOM in 2016 as an emergency site to receive those fleeing the Mosul battle, still hosts 15,600 internally displaced Iraqis. Raber Aziz/IOM Iraq, 2018
Mohammed added: “When you live in a camp, it is only logical that marriage is the last thing on your mind, because of the many difficulties of daily life here, such as the lack of job opportunities, the lack of space, the harsh weather conditions… And not being able to make your dream wedding come true,” he said, “but life must go on.”

“Marwah told me that whatever happens, we will still be together, and this means the world to me. It is hard to get married in a camp but she wanted to go ahead, I really appreciate and respect this.”

Marwah and Mohammed got married on September 27, 2018, along with four other couples living in the camp, in a group wedding ceremony in Haj Ali camp, organized by IOM with support from Germany and ECHO.

Also, beneficiaries who had participated in a variety of trainings through IOM psychosocial support contributed to the couples' big day. Beneficiaries of hairdressing and makeup training courses did the brides’ hairstyle and makeup. Beneficiaries of carpentry courses made chests of drawers, and those who followed the baking courses baked wedding cakes. IOM's PSS courses were funded by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)

Beneficiaries of various courses provided at IOM's psychosocial centre at Haj Ali camp baked the wedding cake and did the brides' hairdressing and chests of drawers for the couples. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, 2018
The event was attended by local a large number of residents of the Haj Ali camp and local community leaders. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, 2018

Mohammed was in his last year of high school when ISIL took over Mosul in June 2014. Because he is the oldest of seven siblings, he dropped out to support his family. He hopes to go back to Mosul soon to start a new life with his bride, and finish school to become an English teacher.

"We are preparing ourselves to go back home. We need to go back. It's true that there are not many work opportunities in Mosul and this is a major challenge, but with my wife by my side, I am ready to start a new life and contribute to rebuilding our city.”

A scene of destruction from West Mosul. Raber Aziz/IOM Iraq, 2018
Created By
Raber Y. Aziz


Written by Raber Y. Aziz, with contribution from Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, 2018