Colors of Mosul

A dust storm blows through Hamam al-Alil camp for displaced people. ©UNICEF 2017/Jennifer Sparks

Hamam al-Alil camp, 30 km south of Mosul, is muted — cloudy skies and a dust storm blowing through dulls the senses and turns everyone and everything a dull greyish-brown.

We start speaking with children who are waiting to fill their family’s jerry cans at a water distribution point. A conversation with one child leads to a crowd of children who gather quickly, jostling each other and competing for attention.

UNICEF provides ongoing water services in Hamam al-Alil camp through the support of the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, DFID and the UK National Committe.

The memories of these children from Mosul paint their city in rainbow colors. ©UNICEF 2017/Jennifer Sparks

Dima (left) was a standout in her brightly patterned red, white and black abaya, accented with a yellow scarf. When asked if red was her favorite color, she said, “My favorite color is blue because it’s the color of the sea and sky. It makes me remember the water of the river and the rug in our house in Mosul.”

After that, several of the children began volunteering their favorite colors which seemed to come with memories of home. Their statements paint Mosul in rainbow tones, standing in stark contrast to the dusty browns of the camp.

15 year old Hamisa (second photo), “Yellow is my favorite because I love yellow flowers. Our curtains were yellow.”

“I like red because it was the color of our car. I have a lot of red dresses too!” 11 year old Mayad (middle) punctuates her words with her hands.

10 year old Mufaa (left) said, “I like red because my grandpa does. I had a red suit at home.” The mental image of this solemn boy in such a bold suit makes the assembled group laugh.

Amira (bottom) boldly steps up, saying “Pink is the best! It makes me think of our house. We had pink flowers outside.”

The wind picks up, billowing dust across open spaces. Scarves and arms come up to cover noses and mouths. It’s hard to see just up the road, but easier to visualize the bright colors of their city.

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