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Displaced Iraqis In Mosul Look Forward To Reuniting With Relatives


And let's turn now to our colleague in Iraq who's been watching as Iraqi security forces keep up their fight to take the city of Mosul from ISIS. The extremists have held that city for more than two years now. Tens of thousands have been fleeing the fighting there. And some of those escaping now have been able to reunite with relatives who got out long ago. So NPR's Alice Fordham has seen moments of joy amid all the trauma.


ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: This camp for the displaced here in northern Iraq is full of people who fled Mosul just days ago caught in crossfire. They're happy to be free of ISIS' brutal clutches, but they can't leave these camps. Iraqi authorities are confining them until they figure out if any of them are with ISIS. It could be weeks. Still, their family members who left Mosul years ago when ISIS came come to visit them anyway. They kind of half hug through the fence.

SOUAD FADEL: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: "Every day, minute by minute, we were following the news from Mosul," says Souad Fadel, who's on the outside of the fence, overjoyed to be reuniting with family members on the inside.

FADEL: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: "And we cried when we saw them," she says. "We didn't expect we would ever see them safe again." She's helping sling some food and blankets over the wire to her aunt named Nabat Khidr, who wears a black velvet dress, a white lace scarf and whose wrinkled face is radiant with happiness.

NABAT KHIDR: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: "I'm just very happy," she says. "I cried for two years without them." She says life in their village was tough. They were short of food.

KHIDR: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: Her grandson's been out of school for two years. A lot of people didn't want to send their children to ISIS' schools.

KHIDR: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: Now, she says, she'll kill a sheep for a celebratory meal when he has his first lessons.

I move on down the fence. One enterprising local guy is selling a few chickens to the people inside to supplement their rations. And then there's two brothers-in-law also meeting for the first time in years.

ALI SAAD: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: "I feel I have everything I want in the world," says Ali Saad on the outside of the fence. He points to a little girl, the youngest of his brother-in-law's ragged children, and says this is the first time he's met her. I asked Radwan Hasem on the other side of the fence how long he thinks it will be till they're all home together.

RADWAN HASHEM: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: "Tomorrow, God willing," he says, but he's joking. He says ISIS will fight hard in Mosul, and there's so much destruction where they live that if the government doesn't help them rebuild, they won't be able to go home at all. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Hassan Sham camp, northern Iraq. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.