Zanab Ismail wanted to be a doctor, Raghda Ali was studying to be a nurse – then Isis destroyed Mosul. Three years on, can they start over?
When Mosul was finally liberated on 9 July, Zanab Ismail was 50 miles away, watching events on TV. Her family had left their home in Iraq’s second largest city on the morning of 26 August 2014, after shouts from the street warned them that Isis had entered the area. Rumours had preceded the invasion of what Isis fighters were doing to families with connections to Iraqi forces – beheadings, executions – as well as their treatment of women and girls, the rapes and forced marriages. Zanab was 17 at the time. Her father Mohammed, a property developer and teacher, wanted to get his family out of Mosul as fast as possible, particularly his son, Amir, 26, who worked for the police force.
They arrived at Baharka, a camp for people fleeing Isis, near Erbil, with almost nothing. They imagined they would stay for a few months, then go home. Three years later, they were still there: Zanab, her parents, five brothers and sisters, living among row upon row of small grey tents, spread across the bleak plains of northern Iraq.