The Beautiful Faces of Mosul

Rebuilding lives shattered by war: testimonies from our patients and staff

Doctors Without Borders
5 min readMay 4, 2017


Five-year-old Faten receives care at MSF’s Post-Op Hospital south of Mosul, Iraq. She was injured while playing in a garden when a mortar bomb fell nearby and exploded. Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO

For those wounded by fierce fighting in Mosul, Iraq, emergency trauma surgery is the beginning, rather than the end, of a long journey to recovery. As such, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs a 40-bed hospital in Hamdaniya, a town south of Mosul, to specifically cater to the needs of those recovering from surgery and attempting to rebuild their lives.

This clinic is, for now, the only facility of its kind in the entire Nineveh province of Iraq, and is currently at full capacity, having treated 120 patients since it opened in March.

Inside, patients receive regular dressing changes for their complicated wounds, some of which are infected due to the nature of war trauma. They also receive physiotherapy and psychological care in conjunction with a team from Handicap International. Many patients will require further operations and long periods of rehabilitation before they can return to their families.

Below are the testimonies of staff and patients from MSF’s Hamdaniya facility.

Photographs taken April 8, 2017, by Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO.

Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO

Faten, five-year-old patient from western Mosul

Told by her father:

“When our neighborhood in western Mosul was retaken by the Iraqi army, we went back to our house. Faten was playing in the garden when a mortar bomb fell in the garden and exploded. She was injured in the leg by shrapnel from the bomb. First we took her to MSF in Hammam al-Alil, where she received first aid. From there she was referred to another field hospital in Bartella for further treatment.

Now she is here in the post-operative ward in Hamdaniya Hospital. Every day the staff here clean her wounds and put new bandages on. Faten is a brave girl; she likes to play and laugh, but she misses her brothers and sisters at home and at night she cries. All of her seven siblings are doing well, praise to god.”

Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO

Abdulrahman, 11-year-old patient from western Mosul

“I was going to a food distribution when something exploded in the street next to me. I was hit in the chest and arm by shrapnel.

First I was treated in a medical post in Aqrab. From there they referred me to MSF in Hammam al-Alil.

Then I passed through many hospitals before I came to Hamdaniya. I have been here for a week now. My family is in Hay Maoumon, a liberated area of western Mosul.”

Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO

Sara Younis, MSF nurse from Mosul

“I have been a nurse for seven years. I was working in a hospital in Mosul when IS came. We moved to Qayyarah and I continued for a while but in the end I had to leave the job. To be safe it was best to stay away from them as much as possible. I suffered when I couldn’t work because I really like being a nurse.

Now I work in shifts of six days for MSF in the post-operative ward in Hamdaniya Hospital.

I have seen too many horrible things. We have co-existed with war and violence for a long time. Now I can hardly believe that we have been liberated. I still have hope for Mosul, that it can become a nice place again.”

Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO

Aswan Ismael, MSF nurse from Mosul

“I’m from Al Hathba in eastern Mosul. We stayed there during the offensive. It was very scary with the shooting and shelling, there were dead bodies in the street. But we couldn’t leave the city, it was dangerous and too expensive. I continued to work in the general hospital when IS came in 2014, but the women were treated very badly and when they tried to beat me with a stick, I quit. I stayed home for more than a year.

I first studied electrical engineering, but changed to nursing because I wanted to help people. I like the job here with MSF. We take care of patients after their surgery and we help them recover. I also work one day a week in the general hospital in Al Hathba. It’s hard though because they have a shortage of everything: drugs, equipment, money. We don’t get paid, actually.

The security is still not good in eastern Mosul, and we only leave the house to get essential things like food and water. We have no electricity and no water in the house.”

Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO

Faisal Dakhil Khalaf, nurse from Sinjar

“I live in a refugee camp in Dohuk. It has been almost three years now since we fled Sinjar to escape IS. The first seven days we hid in the mountains without food or water. I would like to leave the camp, life there is bad because there is no electricity, no services, and we still live in tents. But we can’t go back to Sinjar, it is not safe.

I became a nurse for humanitarian reasons, to help people. It is important work.”

Eleven-year-old Mohamed receives care at the MSF hospital in Hamdaniya. It is the only facility providing post-operative care in the area around Mosul. Photo: Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO
Left: MSF staff member plays with 5-year-old Faten. Middle: Nurse Sara. Right: Nurse Aswan working. MSF provides post-operative care with rehabilitation and psychosocial support in Al Hamdaniya hospital in collaboration with Handicap International.
April 8th, 2017: View of the Medecins Sans Frontieres post-op hospital, south of Mosul, Iraq.
Left: A patient arrives at the hospital. Middle: Patient Ahmed’s daughter Dima’s feet alongside some charging cell phones. Right: Portrait of Oday, who has been working as a nurse for the last 11 years.
Photos taken April 8, 2017, at MSF’s Hamdaniya facility by Diego Ibarra Sánchez/MEMO.



Doctors Without Borders

Medical aid org working globally to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe.