SOQYA Team for Relief and Development – Al-Fallujah City
SOQYA Team for Relief and Development
My death is a rebirth
Al-Fallujah.. Where death, hunger and destruction are commonplace.
The inhabitants of this city went through a severe humanitarian crisis and an unspeakable famine. The sounds of explosions have become rather ordinary, as though a glass was accidentally broken. The air is filled with the smell of gunpowder. This city has become almost unlivable, as civilians starved to death, and disease killed many, amidst a severe shortage of food and medicine. Women were no longer able to protect their families, and men went searching for a piece of bread to no avail. People ended up eating grass because they could not access food, and some women jumped off the Fallujah Bridge with their children.
After witnessing these tragedies and suffering, a young woman named Kawthar Al- Mohammedi, sought to bring some relief. Early on, she could only give words of hope and encouragement to people on the streets and in camps. She roamed parts of the city and visited tents at the camp, in a wasteland inhabited by thousands of women and children, after men came to comprise no more than 2 percent of the population. She asked them about their needs, launched appeals on social media, and conveyed the reality of those harsh conditions, in order to obtain means of survival, including food, drink, clothing, medicine and health care.
The SOQYA* Team tackled inconceivable tragedies
Kawthar was no longer working on her own. She was joined by many young men and women who formed a team that worked hand in hand.
The SOQYA Team set out to deal with inconceivable tragedies that were ongoing in the city. A father poisoned his family before committing suicide. A mother walked through the streets carrying her infant while she was appealing “Take my child.. just feed him, it does not matter if I die.” Another woman in Al-Amiriyah was in her tent, carrying her sick infant girl and screaming “Take her.. she is dead.. I have nothing to feed her and I cannot provide treatment to her.” A woman was selling the grain food ration she had received to secure her husband’s chemotherapy. Women in Al-Anbar governorate, especially in conflict zones, were subjected to all forms of violence. In Al-Bou’akkash, a village in As-Saqlawiyah district, more than 1,000 women lost their families’ breadwinners after the men were forcibly disappeared. In Al-Qa’im town, hundreds of women were displaced and took shelter in tents that do not provide minimum protection from cold or heat, where they lacked the basic food necessities. Thousands of children were forcibly displaced or trapped due to exchange of fire.
In the face of these woes, SOQYA’s team did not have the luxury of choosing. They faced a fundamental challenge of providing life-saving services such as water, food, medicine, shelter for children and their families, and paying attention to education.
“Our team believes in the need to create a safe environment and a communication channel between communities and decision makers, in order to establish a secure society that supports social cohesion, security, stability, justice and rights.”
They worked hard on a daily basis, and compiled numerous success stories. The Team sought to provide the basic food needs, including infant formula, in addition to essential clothing, stationery and medical treatment.
They created a safe space for children, and organized many educational and recreational activities in camps that had only known the desert sand color. They distributed toys and Eid clothing* to children who have not seen much other than their tent. The Team also organized classes and volunteered to teach the children.
Hope for a better life brought along by the SOQYA Team
In 2019-2020, SOQYA Team launched a campaign to provide relief and assistance to displaced people in camps. This entailed the distribution of more than 2,000 food parcels, 8,000 milk packages for children, and clothing for more than 1,000 male and female pupils, in addition to wheelchairs for persons with disabilities.
The team members enabled the women to access specialist physicians, and provided medication from pharmacies outside the camp. Special attention was given to cancer patients; they were provided with treatment, transported to radiation therapy facilities, and supplied with the necessary chemotherapy doses.
Moreover, they provided safe drinking water to families living in desert areas, and paid the rent on behalf of more than 50 poor families and orphans in the city.
The team provided 100 sewing machines for women to enable them to become self-employed, and provided support to help open a small grocery shop, the proceeds from which was to sustain a stream of income for orphans. In addition, women received assistance to open five small grocery shops.
The team helped a large number of women in accessing legal services to complete the procedures of receiving welfare assistance and other forms of assistance. They consistently offered legal awareness sessions, about two sessions per month over a period of three years, which they continue to offer. In this regard, they cooperated with many national and international organizations.
The team organizes the “Eid Tabrika”, which comprises recreational and festive initiatives for orphaned and low-income children during the Eid period, involving between 150 and 300 children.
SOQYA team brought “Eid” to children who have not known Eid before. Over two years, the team organized “Childhood Things”, a mobile amusement park that is brought to the poorest neighborhoods, and particularly the areas where the parents of the children have been forcibly disappeared.
During the past two years, the team provided Iftar meals throughout the month of Ramadan through refrigerators that were placed near city entrances and exits in Al-Anbar governorate.
During the Coronavirus crisis, the team provided oxygen tubes for the sick, in addition to providing wheelchairs and prosthetics for persons with disabilities. The team coordinated with the Provincial Health Department to ensure access to female gynecologists in areas where such services were lacking. Moreover, the team provided diagnostic equipment.
Dialogue cinema has claimed its place in Al-Fallujah. The team organized showings of short films on issues relating to the social realities, which raised the community’s awareness, and created a recreational space for children.
The team organized “carnivals” involving young men and women who would put on display their handicrafts, turning them into income-generating activities. These initiatives which were implemented in Al-Anbar governorate, helped strengthen community cohesion and enhance cultural momentum. The city squares which had formerly witnessed violence and atrocities, have become spaces where flowers are sold and artistic activities take place. Deserted and haunted parts of the city were replaced by areas of colors and became full of life, noise of people and the giggles of children. These spaces also offered opportunities for networking, communication and building careers.
A Sewing Needle and a Pencil
SOQYA’s team founded “A Sewing Needle and A Pencil”, a community service center which supports low-income families, widows, orphans, cancer patients, and provides fostering for abandoned and orphaned children. The center provides relief services in Al-Fallujah district in particular and in Al-Anbar governorate more broadly. The center offers free legal services on a daily basis, with help from a group of volunteers who facilitate referrals to lawyers and legal organizations. In addition, the Team provides counselling and psychological support sessions for girls and women, at the center or by specialists through referrals. The team organized several workshops and sessions for girls, women and youth, aimed at informing them of their rights, the laws and regulations that concern them. The center helps build their capacities through development and empowerment sessions, which address topics such as small business management, typing, and small business entrepreneurship; which helped some find employment.
SOQYA built a specialized health crew (Doctor.com). This team examines the medical conditions of patients from poor and low-income families, and seeks to secure their admission at public and private hospitals to receive proper medical examinations and necessary surgeries. To this end, the team coordinates with Al-Anbar oncology center, the prosthetics center, pharmacies and laboratories.
The Martyr of Humanity
During the Coronavirus crisis, the team faced immense pressures and difficulties to provide life-saving assistance to those in need of oxygen and essential medical supplies. The SOQYA team lost one of its pillars, Mohammed, who was dubbed the “Martyr of Humanity”. Mohammed was responding to a call for donating plasma in Baghdad. While he was at the hospital, he heard an appeal for a patient who needed blood units from his same blood type. He immediately donated blood without considering that he had donated blood only one week earlier, which caused him to lose his life. His final words were “my death is a rebirth”, and called upon the volunteers to continue their mission to provide support to those who needed it.
SOQYA.. A necessity of life
SOQYA came to be a key actor in Al-Fallujah. The determination of SOQYA’s team has saved the lives of many, and brought back hope to the lives of those who had lost it. SOQYA’s team inspired many volunteers to follow suit and join efforts to shoulder the tasks that government policies failed to undertake. Today, SOQYA is a beacon of humanity, which helped provide the population with safety from fear, and attempted to address their basic food, shelter and medical needs.
SOQYA is a necessity of life.