At times the situation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) can seem locked into the fighting in nearby Mosul. However, it is always important to remember that in the overarching stories of war and conflict there are individual people, wanting to lead their lives, to work and to fulfil their own desires for a sustainable and productive future. Mohammed Salih is one such individual. Mohammed is an IDP who has been living in Debaga camp, for almost three years. Debaga is situated in the Erbil governorate of the KR-I and Muhammed is originally from a nearby village called Makhmour. He is young, displaced and a perfect candidate to become part of a ‘disenfranchised’ or ‘lost’ generation. He is however determined not to let this happen.
Meeting with Muhammed is a pleasure, he speaks openly and with passion about his achievements. The most recent of which has been the earning of a certificate from a welding course provided by GIZ ans QANDIL at the Debaga camp where Muhammed resides. Prior to taking the course, Muhammed had very little knowledge of welding, but his interest had started after witnessing some people work in a shop in his home village, before he had been displaced. The GIZ and QANDIL project began on 16th February 2017 and Muhammed was one of the first participants. He eagerly signed up to the two week programme hoping to learn new skills and to be able to improve his and his community’s future. It worked. No sooner had he graduated than Muhammed found work at a local construction site, welding door and window frames, as well as other smaller items required during the construction. Muhammed is proud to share his experience and happily reports that “this training gives me good opportunities for the future, to have a stable and long term occupation”.
Not all participants in the courses find a job as quickly as Muhammed. Some participants such as Najib are still negotiating a space for stall. Najib is speaking with a local man who owns a photocopying shop just outside of Debaga camp, trying to secure a section of this other man’s shop for his own use. Najib recently graduated from the mobile maintenance course where, amongst other things, he learnt how to properly install applications and connect the very small and intricate parts. It has been important for Najib to have a certificate from reputable and accredited institutions such as GIZ and QANDIL when conducting his negotiations. Najib says that only after showing the shop owner his certificate was he “satisfied that I was able to do this kind of work”. Najib will continue to negotiate to find space, but before he finishes speaking he says “one of the most important things that I liked was your attitude with us, your performance, your working style it helped a lot”. One of the clear successes of the courses has been the rapport built between the trainers and the participants and the clear enjoyment many of the participants have had in learning or improving their skills.
Another two examples of the rapport built between the teachers and students on the courses, are Ayed and Amjad, both of whom graduated from the painting course at the centre. They have been working as day labourers in the camp, even painting the water tower for UNICEF on the other side of the new GIZ QANDIL social centre at Debaga. Mr. Adnan the painting and decorating teacher has been instrumental in helping the two young men find work. He has taken pictures of their progress, introduced them to contractors and of course taught them the techniques they need to succeed as painter and decorators. Unfortunately though both Ayed and Amjad are very skilled and have received two offers to work with contractors, they are as of yet still working only as day labourers. Companies in Erbil are asking for their work, but currently they do not have residency in the city, meaning they cannot accept. Despite the challenges Ayed remains optimistic noting that whereas before completing the course he and Amjad would find one or two days of work in a three week period, now he and Amjad are working almost every day.
Stories such as these highlight the importance of work not just as a means of contributing to one’s personal economy and indeed the economy of the region, but also as an important aspect of feeling happy and fulfilled. Ayed said clearly that before the course “we inside, we were very depressed the situation wasn’t good, but now we feel proud, now we are happy, we have a specific job that we do and we know what we are doing”. Statements such as these illustrate that even though it is the second centre, in Debaga one, which will focus on the psychological and community support for people in Debaga, the vocational centre will still continue to play an important role in the community.
13 year old Dilan, a Syrian refugee from Hassaka, plays Bağlama (Saz). He is blind and has never gone to school. “I started playing Bağlama when I was 7. My father hired a music tutor for me, and I quickly learned how to play the instrument at home,” he says. “When there are small parties and special events inside the refugee camp, I am always invited to play Bağlama and sing national and love songs.” Dilan had more taste in music when he was home in Syria. His wish is to become a famous musician in the future and to follow his dreams in a peaceful world, free of violence and war.
There is a possibility for Dilan’s physical disability to be cured, but in one of the more advanced countries. His mother is asking for financial support from NGOs and humanitarian agencies.
“If it were not for the meaningless war, I would have stayed in my hometown and followed my dreams,” says 25-year-old mechanic, Haval Muhammadamin. Living in the Qushtapa Refugee Camp in the southern suburbs of Erbil City with his wife and 1-year-old child, he and his entire family left Syria at the peak of the civil war in 2012. “My living condition [there] was really hard so I had to make a life for my family here in Kurdistan,” says Haval. “I thought about working with an NGO that worked inside the camp where I lived and QANDIL was the only humanitarian organization that offered me a job in my profession, and now I am the QANDIL compound’s Generator Operator with a good monthly salary.”
Through his employment with QANDIL, Haval has been able to make a living and save his family’s life.
QANDIL had the pleasure to meet Mister Merkez Shabob during a cash distribution in Zakho in July 2015. He agreed to share his story with us:
“We left Turkey when things got bad in the early 90’s. Mosul, at the time, was our place of refuge. After Daesh came, we were forced to flee our home once again.
When we got to Zakho, I started to feel pain in my chest, and was told I needed to have surgery. The first one was unsuccessful, so now I have to go back. Hopefully with some of the money QANDIL provides, I will be able to afford the operation. I have a wife and nine children to look after, QANDIL is my sense of hope right now.”