Sami had driven past his former shop a couple times, but he hadn’t stopped to really look at what was left of his business.
The truth is, there wasn’t much to look at. The only thing we could find was a single broken kettle. It survived thousands of cups of tea served to Sami’s customers, but it didn't survive ISIS.
We talk a lot about the families who fled ISIS and “lost everything”. This is what “lost everything” looks like.
The roof of Sami’s shop is gone. So are the back wall and the metal shutters that made up the front wall of the shop and protected Sami’s inventory from theft.
Every bit of stock from the store is gone, along with every display shelf, the counter, and his chair. Sami’s ledger is gone too. The book that recorded purchases made on credit was destroyed, so Sami will never be repaid for the loans he extended to his community.
He lost everything.
We happened to meet Sami’s former landlord during our visit. The landlord was focused on repairing his house which sits on the street behind the commercial strip he rented out to men like Sami.
There was debate between the men who gathered about the likely cause of the damage to the strip of shops. It could have been an airstrike. Maybe an IED. Perhaps a car bomb. Or all three.
We asked the landlord what he would do about his destroyed rental property—he didn't yet know. First he needed to re-create a home for his family. Once his family was secure, he could think about other things.
So many commercial and residential spaces in Sami’s city are destroyed. When ISIS controlled this city, they methodically went door-to door marking codes on the exterior walls with spray paint. If you were known to be Christian, or Shia, or Shabak like Sami, your property was marked for destruction.
Residents are moving home, but rebuilding a life takes far more than just unpacking a suitcase.
You gave Sami and his brother Fahti the training and tools they need to start a new business building windows, door, and kitchen cabinets. They don’t have to wait for their former landlords to reconstruct the shops they used to rent. Sami and Fahti have choices now.
We continue to walk alongside them as they rebuild their homes and navigate what it means to establish a business in a place where so much was destroyed. It’s a different environment than the one they left before ISIS changed everything.
But Sami and his brother don’t have to face the challenge alone. We’re in this together.