In 2016, hundreds of people in Saqlawiya district, in the governorate of Anbar in western Iraq, left the town to seek safety elsewhere, fleeing amid clashes and approaching bullets. Groups of men and women walked along the Saqlawiya cemetery – a brother asking his sister to take care of herself and his children, a husband reassuring his wife and giving her some money until they meet again, a father glancing at his daughters one final time and a son leaving without being able to give his mother a farewell embrace.
Overnight, hundreds of women had to step up and take on the responsibility of those missing men, becoming the providers and the “pillars” of their households. The challenges these women have faced over the years – psychological, psychosocial, emotional, economic, and legal – did not defeat them but have shaped their resilience. “I want them to come back and find us doing great; that would make them happy,” says Asia, a 45-year-old single woman, waiting to hear about her four missing brothers.
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