Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—The family of Mohamed Aref, a young man from Mosul, did not hesitate to organize their son’s wedding in a school in Baghdad. They had taken shelter in the school together with large groups of internally displaced people who escaped the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The wedding, attended and arranged by dozens of the district’s residents and in the presence of local media outlets, was a strong reaction against ISIS’ terrorism which promotes death and destruction, the groom said.
On June 6 this year ISIS swept through Iraq’s northern city of Mosul in a move that shook the entire country and left the road open for the jihadist group to take over large swathes of the northwestern region.
Mohamed, seated next to his bride Reem on the wedding dais, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I never imagined that my wedding could be arranged in a school far away from my city and amid all the destruction caused by ISIS.” He says that it was his family and his fiancée who resolved to go through with the wedding despite the circumstances. “The residents of Al-Saidiya district [south western Baghdad] and their determination to arrange and cover all the wedding costs have made it possible for us to start our marital life and overcome all difficulties.”
“I never felt like I wasn’t at home and I was delighted with the wedding that became a truly unique one and a wonderful challenge to terrorism,” he added.
The bride and groom hope that in the days to come they will receive news of ISIS’s defeat and will be able to return to their home city. This hope remains a distant one as ISIS continues to advance across Iraq despite coalition airstrikes targeting the jihadist group.
The couple’s wedding party was not the first of its kind; Nasiriyah city witnessed the marriage of another couple who fled Mosul. The party was arranged by the People’s Rescue Commission in Dhi Qar governorate.
In Al-Sadr city, eastern Baghdad, a wedding party was also arranged for a displaced couple from Bartella, near Mosul, by municipality officials and the district’s residents, who later decided to organize a mass wedding for other displaced couples. For one happy couple a classroom was temporarily turned into a honeymoon suite.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been internally displaced since ISIS swept across the country’s northern and western governorates this summer.
Qasem Abdulzahra Al-Sudani, head of the Immigration Commission, said: “We tried to alleviate the difficult circumstances the displaced are experiencing by distributing some aid and accommodating them properly. This is apart from arranging for a mass wedding ceremony for which we will provide bedrooms, wedding parties and an overnight reservation in a luxury hotel.” Sudani said the commission will also launch a circumcision campaign for young boys who will receive gifts and clothing.