One of the first British aid workers to venture into Islamic State’s former Iraqi stronghold has described scenes of “Armageddon” in Mosul.
Madiha Raza, who works for the British-based charity Muslim Aid, said she has been changed by the harrowing experience of witnessing the humanitarian crisis first-hand.
The 29-year-old from Northwood, west London, recalled how seeing shoes, toys, and backpacks amongst the rubble of a primary school destroyed by IS bombing was the most powerful part of her visit.
Speaking to the Press Association from northern Iraq, she said: “The entire city is just completely obliterated, it is like a movie set.
“What you can’t feel in the photos or smell is the death, sewage, and smoke. When you are there it makes the reality really hit home.
“There is a huge humanitarian need, people have got nothing anymore, it is very, very sad. It is a catastrophic situation.”
Last week a “total victory” was declared by the Iraqi prime minister, after nearly a nine month battle to liberate what is the country’s second biggest city from the extremists.
On the ground Muslim Aid’s teams are handing out food and water after they evacuate people to safer areas near checkpoints, and are providing portable latrines for the displaced civilians.
Ms Raza said of her visit to the primary school: “People went there to shelter when the neighbourhood was being bombed by IS, because they thought IS wouldn’t bomb a school. But they did.”
She added: “There were still bodies under the rubble, which hadn’t been cleared, and little tiny backpacks and shoes. Walking through that was horrific,” she said.
“I don’t have the words to describe it actually.”
Speaking to those who lived under the murderous rule of IS, she heard how some were used as human shields by the group’s fighters and “how easily they dished out punishments”.
“There was a woman who told me that she was cleaning the porch of her house, and covered head to toe, but they told her she was not wearing the traditional black abaya,” she said.
“But they beat her for it.
“There was another little girl, she was 11 years old and her name was Wafa, she told us her brother was shot by a sniper.
“He was only 14, but he was helping people escape and they shot him for that.
“Hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth was something else - they just don’t discriminate - child, man, woman, it doesn’t matter.”
Ms Raza said her short visit into Mosul has changed her perspective on life, and that seeing the “phenomenal” work of her Muslim Aid colleagues on the ground makes her feel “proud”.
“It didn’t feel right coming back to my hotel room where I have my bed and a roof over my head and a fan,” she said.
“It is just makes me appreciate what I have got in my life.”