Image: Suaad

Iraqi Suaad has been a tailor all her life; it’s a job she loves. In 2014 she was forced out of her house by the Islamic extremists of IS. Thanks to a SED project, she is now managing a small sewing factory while in displacement.

The small factory is located on the second floor of a residential flat.  We find Suaad cutting fabrics on the table in the centre of the factory. Behind her there are the sewing machines where we would normally find displaced ladies making pajamas, robes, or anything else that is needed. Suaad shows us her current project—children’s pajamas. “Feel how soft the fabric is,” she says with a soft smile.

Suaad smiles and giggles a lot while she shares her history. Her eyes start to twinkle when she talks about her old tailor job in Mosul where she worked from the eighties. But behind the twinkling eyes, there is a lot of sadness. “Actually, I haven’t experienced much happiness since I became displaced from my town on the Nineveh Plains,” Suaad says as she looks down at the fabric she is holding, her eyes suddenly not so twinkly anymore.

Living in Peace
When Suaad, a widow without children, thinks back on her town she remembers the good things—how she lived together in peace with her neighbours whether they were Christian, Yezidi or Muslim. She was born in the town and had expected to grow old there, but in 2014 she had to flee from IS overnight. “I haven’t been able to return since,” she shares.

Suaad will only be happy again when she can return to her home. “I feel heavy inside, not knowing what has happened to my town. But one thing I do know—God is still there. Whatever other people have done to us, God is the one in charge.”

The widow has been staying with her brother and his family for two years now. And while her brother would never ask his older sister to contribute to the family’s income, Suaad sees him struggling to keep his head above the water, especially now the economic crisis in the country is increasingly getting worse.

When the church set up a sewing factory with the help of OD through a local partner, the chance came for Suaad to contribute to the family income. “The priest asked me to lead the factory and I took the job. I would have done it voluntarily if needed, but I am happy that I get some money so I can share it with my family.”

Sewing Classes
Like a modern day Dorcas, Suaad produces clothes for those who need them. If they can pay they pay, if they can’t they don’t have to. “It’s what I like most about the job. That I can share with those in a worse position then me. Sometimes a displaced person comes to me to ask if I can make them a dress. Then I do that and I don’t charge them. How could I?”

In the factory, Suaad is also sharing her years of tailoring expertise with other displaced ladies. There are regular classes and some of the ladies are hired to work in the factory. “In a few weeks I teach them the basics of tailoring,” Suaad explains, “they can use these skills to earn some money for their families here in the factory or elsewhere. Either way it helps them work toward a future.”