Iraqi teen Asmaa* (16) had to run from the house she grew up in in Iraq. Now, it’s dawning on her that she may never return. Facebook is the only connection she has with her friends.
It was just after her 15th birthday, in mid-2014, when Asmaa’s life changed completely overnight. Her eyes reveal that the memories of those days are still vivid; speaking about it still overwhelms her with emotions, only allowing her to speak in a soft voice.
Growing up in a Christian family in Mosul hadn’t always been easy, but at least Asmaa had her friends, family and a large Christian community there. And a place to call ‘home’.
Now she has lost all those things.
For her whole life there has been unrest in Iraq, something she’d accepted without consideration. When the Islamic State (IS) started gaining ground in her country, it seemed to be another temporary threat her family would be able to recover from.
And even on that warm June night in 2014 when her family had to run from IS, leaving the house and almost all their possessions behind, she was convinced they would be able to return the next day to pick up life where they left it.
Now she knows better. IS only grew stronger, and in only a few days, the fundamentalists had chased almost all the Christians from Mosul. “After we left, IS raided our house and took everything that was of value,” Asmaa shares. “We heard from our neighbours that the rebels threw our family photos in the street to get trampled on in the dust. It feels as if on that day all my hopes and dreams also got trampled on.”
Asmaa took only a few clothes with her. “What I miss most is my baby pictures and the gifts my friends had just given me for my 15th birthday.”
After living in a refugee camp elsewhere in Iraq for over a year, Asmaa’s family decided to leave the country for good this summer and go and live in one of the neighbouring countries for now. They plan to migrate to North-America, whenever they have the chance to do so. “There is no future for us in Iraq,” she says.
The worst thing about living as a refugee is not knowing what your future looks like. “All my dreams are gone,” says Asmaa. “Our hope is now to get to a country where I will be able to study and have a better life.”
One of the few lifelines she has is Facebook. It is the only means for her to keep in touch with her friends who are scattered across Iraq and the region. “I really miss my friends in Iraq. I am glad that we can keep in touch through Facebook, but still it is difficult. I realise I might never see them again in real life.”
By participating in I Share Life, Asmaa hopes to share “the hope and comfort God promises us” with the refugees in her online network.
*Name changed for security purposes
This is an interview with one of the participants of the new social media project ‘I Share Life’ that Open Doors is initiating in the Middle East.
The goal of this project is to enable Christian youth from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to find new ways of sharing the love of Christ online in the Arab world. Click the ‘I Share Life’ tag to find more stories.