Iraq crafter

Building Back Business in Iraq

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“Many people lost so much that they have to start again from scratch.”


At her home in Teleskof, Iraq, Areen* has a table piled high with her sewing creations. Purses, baby booties, blankets and shawls light up the room with different colors and patterns. For years, Areen ran a business out of her home, selling her products to stores locally and in Mosul.

Iraq crafts

Areen owns a small sewing business in the Christian town of Teleskof, Iraq. She creates clothes, handbags and other accessories. Photo by Megan Gilbert/CRS

Things changed dramatically for Areen and her family when ISIS came to Teleskof. Her family was forced to flee, living in displacement for three years. When they returned in the fall of 2017, Areen found her home badly damaged and empty of possessions. Two bombs had struck her house, and everything that was not destroyed was stolen. Clothes, furniture, appliances—even the electrical wiring was gone. As a home-based business owner, Areen had lost her business in the destruction.

“Of course, when we came back and we saw the destruction of things we worked so hard on, we were so upset,” Areen says. “But at the end we said … thank God that we didn’t fall at the hand of [ISIS] and we were not hurt.”

With funding from the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Catholic Relief Services and its partner Caritas Iraq offered cash grants to returnees to restart the businesses they held before displacement.

“Many people lost so much that they have to start again from scratch,” says Hani El-Mahdi, CRS country representative in Iraq. “This grant allows them to buy what they need to get their business going again. Now that people are returning, towns like Teleskof need to build their economies. One of the best ways to do that is to put people back in business.”

Areen used her grant money to buy wool, beads, crochet needles and other accessories. She’s already sold some of her new products and continues to take orders from stores and individuals. She has reconnected with some previous customers and suppliers, and has begun developing a new business network. Areen uses a Facebook page to advertise her work, proudly posting each new product and strategizing about how to keep attracting new customers to her products and services.

It has not been easy to return and rebuild, but Areen is happy to be home again with her husband.

“It’s the best feeling when someone goes back home. We’ve come back. We’ve started life again.”

*name changed for security purposes



Tags: Iraq, crs