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Overcoming Adversity

Older residents show courage and resilience as Mosul is slowly returning to life — and hope

The older adults of Mosul, Iraq (above, photographed by Moises Saman), are far too acquainted with war. Every decade since 1920, it has been involved in conflict. The battles and skirmishes that occurred here in the past 20 years resulted in thousands of deaths of the country’s “sandwich generation,” causing many of Iraq’s grandparents to become parents for the second time, serving as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.

Older residents of Mosul have capitalized on their life experience to repurpose their community’s livelihood. —Moises Saman/Magnum

The Battle for Mosul, considered the largest conflict of the decade, eventually drove Islamic State militants out of the city but left it decimated: Entire neighborhoods, including 54,000 homes and more than 250 schools were destroyed or left severely damaged and uninhabitable. An Associated Press investigation reported that between 9,000 and 11,000 Mosul residents were killed and around 64,000 were displaced.

Sixty-two-year-old Sana'a Ibrahim Muhammad is surrounded by some of the 22 grandchildren that she takes care of in the four-room apartment that they share. —Moises Saman/Magnum

Despite the destruction of their city, older adults like Sana’a Ahmad Ibrahim al-Taee, 61 (above), utilize their wisdom, perseverance and strength to carry on. She lost her two sons, a daughter and son-in-law during the Battle for Mosul, and now takes care of her 22 grandchildren (between the ages of three and 17) who were left orphaned. She also looks after her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. Because the family home was destroyed, they now share a four-room rented apartment with her daughter and two of her sons’ widows.

“I hope that the authorities will give pensions and housing for those orphans because I am not going to live for 100 years,” Sana’a told a Reuters reporter.

Mosul man in his home —Moises Saman/Magnum

Without the benefit of community infrastructure, the older adults of Mosul have had to rebuild their own lives, capitalizing on experience to repurpose or develop a livelihood for themselves and their families.

Talal Hasoun Kader, 66, a former Iraqi Olympian weightlifter, lifts a barbell in his home —Moises Saman/Magnum

Despite the bombings and airstrikes, Talal Hassoun Kader, 66, continues his daily exercise routine that started in his youth. The former Iraqi Olympian weightlifter represented his country in dozens of international competitions, including the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Today he is one of the most famous blacksmiths in Mosul and works four or five days a week. After finishing a day’s work, he lifts weights for an hour. His walls are covered with awards, medals and pictures of him on stage.



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