Marina Isaac Polos Malak was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1994. She and her family, Christians belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East, were forced to flee when ISIS captured Mosul in June 2014. Today, back from nearly three years of exile in Kurdistan, she lives in the family home that is part of the Mosul Dam complex, 15 miles north of Mosul, on the Tigris River. Her father is employed at the country’s largest dam. Marina is a student at the University of Mosul and commutes into the city on a daily basis.
Can you describe your experience of displacement?
My experience, along with that of the rest of my family, my friends and my relatives, was not unique. We all suffered bitter days, especially since we did not receive any financial assistance—only food and a few essentials. I cannot describe the days that passed with more than the word despair. What was hardest was the separation from our land, the land of our fathers and ancestors, and then there was the loss of confidence about ever returning to a stable way of life. Praise be to God anyway and this grace came from the Lord also.
Now, back on the Nineveh Plains, how do you view the current situation of the region, in terms of security, governance, as well as economic and social conditions?
My feeling now is pretty good, but will we be okay later? We are still in a state of anxiety as a result of the repeated disasters that have befallen Christians. Still, the situation is gradually stabilizing when it comes to security, governance, as well as on the economic and social level—especially now that some 5,000 Christians have returned to their former homes in the region.
Can Christian students now attend Mosul University and move about freely?
Yes, they can go and I am one of them. I am in the last stage at the faculties of geography and education. But mobility inside Mosul is not completely free because of the presence of sleeper terrorist cells that are still waiting to fight Iraqi troops.
Do you have confidence in the future of Iraqi society? How do you look at your personal future?
This is a rather difficult question because it needs analysis and in-depth study. But I can give you a superficial answer: given the trials we have experienced, having confidence in the future is difficult. Look at what has become of students who graduated before me and you will find a future reality! These students are mostly unemployed because there are no jobs and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.
However, as long as God is with us and every day we put our trust in Him and our strong faith in Jesus Christ increases … nothing is impossible for Him! God willing, things will be fine in the long run.
What makes you happy today?
At the moment, I am happy in looking forward to the day that I will graduate from university. This is my last year, and certainly it is a great joy; and eventually I will live in my city again, with my family and relatives.
Yet, I have concerns about my uncertain future; after graduating, what will I do then? The Lord knows.
But you have faith that God will not abandon you?
Who does not believe in the existence of God, creator of the universe? Without his presence, life makes no sense. Yes, I have a strong belief that he will not leave us and will not forget us; we thank him for his blessings. My message to my fellow students and my family is to never lose hope and faith in God—and to live life as it is, in happiness and sorrow.
—Ragheb Elias Karash