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Why We're Rebuilding Mosul Before the War Is Even Over...

Intense battles to liberate Mosul from ISIS control have taken a massive toll on the city, in every possible way. That’s why we are starting to rebuild the city and its infrastructure—renovating, stocking, and staffing medical clinics in east Mosul and undertaking a massive project to restore the city’s water system.

But the battle for Mosul is far from over. So, why are we rebuilding a city that is still at war?

Mosul Survivors Describe ISIS's Increasingly Desperate, Increasingly Brutal Tactics

Families arrive at a government checkpoint after escaping ISIS

A month has passed since Iraqi forces began to push ISIS out of west Mosul. ISIS appears to be becoming increasingly desperate, fighting to the death with no regard for civilian lives or property—and no apparent escape routes.

Our Response to the Hijabi Woman in London Says More About Us Than it Does About Her

Westminster Bridge, the scene of Wednesday's terror attack. Photo by D. Geezer/CC BY-NC 2.0

Maybe you’ve seen the hotly debated photo of a Muslim woman walking through the scene of Wednesday's terror attack in London. (We're not sharing the photo because she's asked people to stop circulating it after becoming the target of online abuse.)

If you have seen it, you probably already have a strong opinion about it, and about her.

But what if I told you that our response to this photo says more about our beliefs than it does about hers?

Mosul Water Update: ''You were the cause of happiness for thousands.''

Families in Mosul haven't had water for months. After years of ISIS sabotage and the ongoing battle to liberate Mosul, the water system is in ruins.

On World Water Day, we asked you help turn the water back on in Mosul—and you’re responding. We've started repairing hundreds of feet of pipe, so we can restore water for up to 1.6 million people.

Loving the People No One Else Will Love: It's a Commitment, Not A Contest

We go where no one else will go, to love those no one else will love.

It’s not a bragging statement. It’s not an empty slogan. It’s not a catchphrase.

War Created a Water Crisis in Mosul. Here's How We Can Solve It.

Imagine ISIS rolls into your city and sabotages your water supply. For years, you have nothing to drink but dirty, contaminated water. Eventually, bombs start falling from the sky. They are meant for ISIS—but they also blow huge craters in the street, destroying the water pipes beneath. Now, you don’t have any water—dirty or otherwise.

Families in Mosul have endured a years-long water crisis. It’s hard to imagine, with the mighty Tigris River running through the heart of the city.

But this is not your typical water crisis. It was caused entirely by human hands.

You Just Opened the First Medical Clinic in East Mosul

With three days notice, I flew to Iraq on a one-way ticket, simply because Preemptive Love asked me to and I could not turn down an opportunity like that. I knew they were going to Mosul and I wanted to witness their work in a city that is finally free from ISIS control.

More Than Headlines... Here Are the People of West Mosul

She asked for a photo, but then an airstrike hit nearby.

Then a family pulled me aside, asking for help getting food.

Then a man came along, saying he had just escaped ISIS a few minutes ago.

Then some women shouted at me, to warn that I was walking near an unexploded mortar.

Then, when I realized I’d forgotten to take a picture of that girl with the emerald eyes, she was gone.

Taking the Conversation Offline

Photos by Jenna Strubhar

This is a call to the women in my faith community to come together and rise above division.”

That was the start of Sally’s Facebook post inviting people into her home to create unity in a world that seems intent on driving us apart.

When Everyone Else Said She Wasn't Enough, You Said She Was

“Oh, you have tea cups. If you have teacups, why do you need our help to buy food? Why don’t you sell your teacups?”

Jameela stirs sugar into small glasses of tea before standing to serve the handful of women gathered in her home. Tea glasses are cheap enough to buy new. Her used set might fetch a few cents. Maybe a dollar if the buyer was generous.

Of course, then she and her sons would have no glasses to drink from.

As she tells the story of an earlier visit from another aid agency, it is clear that it’s still painful to her. They left without giving her family any help.

The Presence of Real Empowerment

Preemptive Love Coalition staff visit and listen to one of our empowerment grant recipients

Most Syrian refugees who are lucky enough to find a place in a camp receive more than one form of aid, from more than one source. But refugee families often tell us that aid programs sometimes make them feel like a number or a line on a spreadsheet, a tick in a checkbox marked “completed.”

Aid strives to be efficient. It needs to be.

But there is nothing efficient about rebuilding a shattered life.

Remembering Halabja, 29 Years After Saddam's Chemical Attack

Bombing of Halabja, 1988 (Béatrice Dillies au Kurdistan / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Note: This post contains an image of the aftermath of a chemical attack in 1988, which some readers may find disturbing. 

Today marks 29 years since Saddam Hussein massacred thousands of his own people in a chemical attack on the city of Halabja.

The Exponential Nature of Women's Empowerment

We sit in Widad’s guest room. It’s a combination living room/sewing workshop, with cushioned seating lining three walls and a sewing machine placed near the window to take advantage of daylight.

Arabic coffee is passed around in pretty cups and saucers that clink as we resettle to hear each other better. Four languages are spoken as we listen to stories—two Kurdish dialects, Arabic, and English—but between us all, we’re able to translate for each other. A baby sleeps in the corner despite the cacophony of voices.

It is all perfectly ordinary, and perfectly extraordinary. Widad hosts us all in her home without skipping a beat. It’s almost possible to forget that we’re in a camp for Syrian refugees, sitting among women who lost everything in war.

Six Years Later, Syria's Civil War is Still Raging. But You're Still Showing Up.

A year ago, we stood near the border separating Syria from Iraq. Behind us, ruined cities and mass graves—scars left by ISIS on the Iraqi landscape. In front of us, one of the most brutal conflicts of our lifetime.

The Syrian civil war reached the six-year mark today. Nearly half a million people are dead or missing. More than half the entire population has been uprooted by war.

Without Women

Without women, it would be impossible to unmake violence and remake our world.

Women are the glue. They’re often the ones responsible for picking up the pieces and putting their lives and families back together when the dust of airstrikes, mortar attacks, and chemical warfare finally settles.

Empowering Libya's Lifesaving Women

Pediatric heart surgery was our very first empowerment program. In our earliest days, we were laser focused on providing life-saving heart surgeries for Iraqi children who were born with congenital heart defects due to chemical warfare. We sent children and their families to neighboring countries to receive the care they couldn’t get in Iraq.

We soon realized that while children were getting care, we were missing an opportunity to impact the country of Iraq. So we changed our model.

The Battle for ISIS's Capital in Syria Is Coming, and You're Already Showing Up for Families in the Crossfire

“This is one of the most… complex conflicts I’ve ever seen.”

That’s how one former U.S. defense official described the situation in Manbij, Syria, 70 miles west of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS’s so-called caliphate.

This is where Syria’s civil war, concentrated largely in the western half of the country, meets the fight against ISIS, concentrated in the eastern half. This is where one of the messiest, most complicated conflicts in recent memory gets even messier.

The Strength of Sisterhood

“During the embargo [crippling sanctions placed on Iraq beginning in 1990], my financial status was so bad, I had to do something. I borrowed some money, bought a small sewing machine, and was so successful with it. Gradually, I got a factory of my own. Then I opened another factory in Kirkuk…”

“I borrowed two million dinars [$1,600], opened a shop and started selling dishdasha [traditional men’s clothing].”

Impressive success, isn’t it?

Thousands in West Mosul Have Food Today Because of You

Your love crossed into west Mosul yesterday, for the third time in a week.  

A few days earlier, ISIS counterattacks kept us from reaching neighborhoods farther inside the city, where thousands of people are in desperate need of food, water, and medical care. 

Instead of turning back, we dug in. We kept our trucks full of food inside west Mosul—forward positioned, ready to go at the first opportunity to reach families here. 

Yesterday, the opportunity came. 

Throwing Off the Veil of ISIS

Discarded abayas lay on the ground around the military trucks used to evacuate families from west Mosul

As we drove into west Mosul yesterday, we saw thousands of people being evacuated—packed into the backs of government trucks, fleeing their homes and the fighting that has swallowed their city. We stopped at one of the sites where they were letting people off the trucks, finally far enough from the fighting to safely unload, and one of the most striking things was the response of the women.

They were tearing off the heavy black veils that ISIS had forced them to wear for the last three years and throwing them on the ground.

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