WASHINGTON / MOSUL - Iraqi mother Ibstisam Muhammad, 51, has a full-time job making bread to support her family even after she was blinded by an Islamic State (IS) bombing.
Muhammad, nicknamed Aum Ashraf, has been a baker for 15 years, making Mosul’s special flatbread recipe.
She was blinded by shrapnel when an IS car bomb exploded in front of her house in Mosul during the beginning of the Iraqi operation against IS in November 2016.
She told VOA her family has given her the reason to stay resilient and continue her job despite the difficulties caused by her impaired vision.
“As the saying goes: 'We get strength from our weaknesses,' ” Aum Ashraf told VOA. “I can still stand tall and work to provide for my children. I am using my utmost power to make sure they can have a decent life. I don’t want them to have needs that I can’t fulfill.”
WATCH: Mosul Woman Blinded by IS Bombing Makes Bread to Support Her Family
Aum Ashraf has four young children, ages 4 to 18. Her husband, 60, is suffering from chronic heart disease and is unable to work.
Like many Mosul residents who had to endure a brutal battle between IS militants and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, Aum Ashraf’s family had to flee after their house was damaged in the IS car explosion.
They are now renting a small house in eastern Mosul.
“By God, we suffered a lot. We witnessed a lot of humiliation and wrongdoing,” she said.
The daily struggles and hardships faced by her family also affect many of their neighbors in the city that has not recovered from IS rule and warfare.
U.S.-backed Iraqi army troops and allied Shiite militants declared victory over IS in December 2017. The Iraqi government now says it needs up to $100 billion to reconstruct recaptured areas.
An assessment by the Norwegian Refugee Council in July estimated $874 million was needed to repair basic infrastructure in Mosul alone.
For Aum Ashraf, whose bread is well-known in the city for its freshness and sweet smell, baking skills can help pay rent, buy food, clothes and schooling needs. But she says she hopes to get medical treatment to recover her sight, a wish unlikely to come true by only selling bread.
WATCH: Ibstisam Muhammad Makes Mosul’s Special Flatbread
Doctors have told Aum Ashraf that she needs to seek treatment outside Iraq to determine if she can regain her vision. She hopes that private donors and aid organizations could step in to help her see again.
“If only good people could come to help me see my children and my house again, to engage in a normal life like before,” she told VOA.
“Thank God I don’t think about it a lot, but I wish from God for them to help me and aid me in this good deed,” she said.