Small shop, big future

“My shop is small, but step-by-step I will make it larger. This is my career and my future.”

Ninewa was one of the most conflict-affected governorates in Iraq in 2014. An estimated six million people were displaced due to the armed conflict with the Islamic State group (IS).   

There are still over one million people displaced across Iraq.  

Muhammed, 25, was one of those people who fled with his family to the south of Iraq. After the liberation of Mosul, Muhammed and many others started to gradually return to their areas of origin. Bartella, located in the Ninewa plains, east of Mosul, had a big share of returnees.  

A small village shop 

Muhammed is from a small village called Alirash, located on the outskirts of Bartella. He works in his small barber shop serving customers from the community.   

 “When I returned, there was nothing to do,” Muhammed says, while neatly cutting the hair of one of his customers. “I had already wasted years in displacement doing nothing, I wanted to restart my life, and take part in rebuilding my village.”  

Muhammed giving a haircut to one of his customers: Photo: Hoshang Abubaker/NRC
I wanted to restart my life, and take part in rebuilding my village.

But it was hard for Muhammed to find a job and earn an income to help his family. After a long hunt searching for work, with help from a relative he found an opening. “I found a job in construction, but it was not steady,” he says. “It was like working one day and then sitting doing nothing for the rest of the week.”    

In July 2020, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) established a community centre in Bartella to help those displaced from their homes, those who had returned, and to help the local community rebuild. The community centre is funded by the European Union. 

One of Muhammed's friends told him about NRC’s community centre.I heard the centre offers training in hairdressing and other things,” Muhammed recalls. “I have always loved the idea of becoming a barber and having my own shop, so I visited the centre.”

According to Ahmed Jalal, NRC’s urban displacement officer at the Bartella community centre, since the centre was established, it has received 12,500 visits from the community, mostly from displaced people and returnees. The visitors ask for information and counselling in regard to education, legal issues, jobs and other queries. It has served over 1,600 beneficiaries in many different areas.   

Ahmed Jalal, NRC’s Urban Displacement Officer. Photo: Hoshang Abubaker/NRC

“Many workers at the centre and trainers of vocational courses are displaced people and returnees themselves,” says Ahmed.

Hairdressing course for women at the community centre. Photo: Hoshang Abubaker/NRC

The community centre offers vocational and educational courses, such as tailoring, hairdressing, mobile maintenance, English language, computer skills, life skills, and other courses.   

Computer course at the community centre. Photo: Hoshang Abubaker/NRC

Muhammed is one of the 1,633 people who has graduated from the centre. He completed the hairdressing course and was one of the top students. As an award, NRC offered Muhammed hairdressing tools and equipment to support him in establishing his business. 

“I was very excited when I had my first customer,” Muhammed says. “He loved the hairstyle I did for him.”  

Now, with his small shop Muhammed is able to support himself and provide for his family. He is just one of the many success stories of the community centre.  

Read more about our work in Iraq