A city in shambles / by Joseph Bulger

West Mosul, Iraq

May, 2017

I got invited to tell part of the story of what The Free Burma Rangers were doing in Iraq. The Free Burma Rangers is an aid organization started in Burma by David Eubank and his family. They train people to go into conflict zones to provide help in a verity of ways.

One of the first few nights we were there we got up at 5am and ran outside to find this man and his family breathlessly thanking us for being there to provide food and water. They knew they were going to finally escape the terror ISIS had been putting them and their community through. The quiet communication I had with this man and his child told me so much of his troubles escaping the city, and protecting his family rom ISIS. I could read the fear mixed with relief he wore like a mask on his face. Coming from being treated like trash and used as bullet and bomb shields, to receiving water and transport provided I think a sense of humanity. We were there to be a help in whatever way we could, even if that was a smile reminding them they are human and are loved.

So the mission was to go find the broken and hurting and love on them in whatever way we possibly could. 



"We woke up at 5 again to Dave yelling down to us, "IDPs are outside get up" so we rushed out to help them. There were so many this morning. The weight was so heavy, the weight of their broken, hurt, but not defeated faces. Kids crying, women crying, and a few of the men crying sent me into a different place in my mind I've never experienced."

These Iraqi families are forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, some get to keep a small suitcase full of what they could grab quickly. They are all tired, hungry, and scared out their minds by the terror they've witnessed and lived through. I could see the obvious fear through their tears, and the broken spirits behind their attempts to smile. Their only option was to flee for their lives - there was no conversation about other options. There was no option for dialogue and compromise. The more time spent in the city meant the higher chance of being harassed, tortured or killed. Many of the families were just hoping to be taken in at one of the few refugee camps nearby. Fleeing ISIS was one thing, but what happens after you leave?  

Everything has been taken from them. 

Members of FBR discuss plans and prepare to move closer to the battle to rescue the wounded soldiers and the IDPs still in those areas. 

The people of Mosul have to navigate through the wasteland that was their home to get to safety. 

Children just like her have been born into a life full of conflict knowing nothing but violence, fear, and displacement. Something has to be done to help the families to have hope for a life of dignity and possibility for their children. Dreams of a life full of peace need not to just be dreams.

"The nature of war has changed dramatically. Today's conflicts happen where people live and they take a brutal toll on children. Heavy bombardment and destruction in war will create a humanitarian crisis where there is lack of adequate food, clean water, and medicine. The consequences of war can have a major impact on the health of children for years to come. Traumatic events can have a profound and lasting impact on the emotional, cognitive, behavioral and physiological functioning of an individual. Depending on the circumstances, the psychosocial impacts of disasters can range from mild stress reactions to problems such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD)." - Prasad AN, Med J Armed Forces India

Organizations that are doing something that matters:

Free Burma Rangers