Iraqi grandmother struggles daily to feed 22 grandchildren

Iraqi grandmother struggles daily to feed 22 grandchildren
More than a year since the Islamic State group's expulsion from Mosul, Sana Ibrahim bears daily hardship to look after her 22 grandchildren, after losing family members during IS occupation.
3 min read
29 September, 2018
Sana Ibrahim lived in a small house in the northern Iraq city of Mosul [AFP]
A 61-year-old grandmother who is the sole carer for 22 of her orphaned grandchildren has become focus of national attention in Iraq after news of her struggle hit the spotlight.

Sana Ibrahim lived in a small house in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. Suffering from a vocal-cord paralysis that left her struggling to breathe and unable to speak, the grandmother stood as primary carer for her Alzheimer's suffering husband.

It was during the occupation of Mosul by Islamic State group militants that Sana lost at least five members of her family.

Both sons, Fares and Ghazwan, as well as her son-in-law Masoud, were members of Iraq's security forces. Considered "apostates" by IS group militants, they were all abducted during the militant group's three-year occupation of Mosul.

None of Sana's sons or son-in-law have been heard from since.

"The militants probably killed them" Sana told AFP, while holding out hope that one day she will retrieve all their bodies.

During the IS occupation, she was soon again forced to mourn when two more of her children were killed.

Sana took to scouring sites for any remnants of her own children
[Graphics by Amani al-Ali/The New Arab]

Iraqi forces launched an offensive in 2016 to retake Mosul, prompting a months-long battle in the heart of the city which culminated in the militant's ouster in July 2017.

During the long campaign, Sana's 20-year-old son Yousef and her 18-year-old daughter Noor were both shot by militant snipers as they tried to flee their childhood home in the Old City.

All 22 grandchildren were now orphaned. The feeding, clothing, housing and upbringing of all were left to the struggling grandmother.

Throughout the occupation of Mosul by IS group militants, the bodies of hundreds of government soldiers and police officers were dumped in mass graves around the city after having been kidnapped and executed by the militants.

Sana took to scouring these sites for any remnants of her own children. Three were found beneath rubble, a fourth remains unknown as results are awaited from the screening of bodies found in mass graves.

The story of Sana was picked up by local media, leading to some vital donations to be sent to the family.

"We live thanks to the donations of charitable souls in Mosul. Without them we would have already have died from hunger and illness," she told AFP.

Despite her old age and daily struggle, Sana still has hopes for the future. She wants her grandchildren "to study so that they can find good jobs and can get by," she said. "I don't want them to beg on the streets like many other orphans."

In the absence of official statistics, non-governmental organisations have estimated there are more than 3,000 orphans in Mosul.

Agencies contributed to this report.