Their names are Saja and Nabil. They are 20 and 23. They found each other in this camp, fell in love and eventually got married. In their previous lives, before they found safety in Ashti, they both lived, unknown to each other, in Dujail, a town of 100,000 people north of Baghdad.
Nabil came to Ashti in 2014, having fled with his family from the fighting between ISIS and government forces. He was able to resume his education in a nearby camp, complete his final year and get his secondary school diploma.
Saja was already living in Ashti with her family when Nabil, his siblings and his parents arrived and moved into the next-door tent.
‘I wasn’t ready to move and start from scratch again,’ says Nabil, ‘but when I met Saja, I changed my mind. We met and when we found out we were from the same town, we started chatting. It wasn’t long before I fell head over heels in love with her, and in 2015, after we’d been together for a year, I asked her to marry me.’
‘We were together seven months, not a year!’ Saja tells him off, adding, ‘Our wedding was beautiful. We had it in the village of Arbat. Everyone was celebrating that day. About five hundred people came from Ashti. There are so many families living here.’
As they wait for the houses, schools and hospitals in their hometown to be rebuilt, Nabil and Saja will remain here, together with what’s most precious to them – their children, aged three and one. A nasty flu prompted Nabil to come to the Health Centre, where we performed over 300,000 check-ups in 2015 alone. This photo was taken right here at the entrance to the Centre.
‘We want to give our children the future they deserve,’ says Nabil.
Today is Valentine’s Day in Iraq too, and there’s something powerful here, resisting war, violence, danger and fear. It’s called love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!