Springtime in Iraq

Duhok, Iraq

Despite the grim news of coronavirus gripping all of the world’s media, spring has arrived in northern Iraq! This is usually the prime season for family picnics and hikes on the beautiful mountains and trails surrounding the small city of Duhok, but even one of the biggest Persian New Year (Nowruz) celebration weekends passed by quietly with the occasional fireworks lighting the quiet city for families to enjoy at home. 

The country has been in lockdown since mid-March and it’s expected to continue for another month or so. The international airport in Erbil remains closed, without indication of when flights will resume. This is understandable as without precautionary measures, there are fears that the health system in Iraq could collapse. According to the government, over 1,000 individuals have positively tested for COVID-19, and numbers are expected to increase with additional testing being made available. 

There are 21 camps – five camps for Syrian refugees and 16 for Iraqis internally displaced by conflict – in northern Duhok governorate alone, but no COVID-19 cases have yet been identified among the refugees and IDPs in any of the camps or urban areas. Daily monitoring continues and contingency planning is in place for humanitarian actors to be able to swiftly respond should an outbreak in a camp happen. Thankfully the Government has been allowing movement for life-saving humanitarian activities to continue. Unfortunately borders remain closed, including to those seeking asylum in Iraq. 

For me, this means that I am able to go on protection monitoring missions at least once a week when we talk with the authorities and health staff in the refugee camps, as well as the community leaders and outreach volunteers and provide feedback on the concerns that they previously shared with us – and for the rest of the week, I do what all other employees around the world are doing: work from home.

Pros of working from home: 

  • Wearing the same PJs as ‘work attire’ three days in a row while working in front of my laptop just because I can. 
  • Taking less than 10 minutes to get ready for work (just a quick splash of cold water to the face and making sure that the video stays turned off during any online meeting).
  • No commute. 

Cons of working from home: 

  • Feeling guilty for harassing your team with multiple calls throughout the day because you no longer share an open office space with them to ask questions or discuss certain topics. OR NOT being able to harass your colleagues because you are mindful of the time differences in the parts of the world they have now been scattered to.
  • Longer working hours with less work-life balance. Especially when your flatmate is stuck back in the States, and you have the empty apartment to yourself with no family or children to distract you. 
  • Gaining weight. Although my yoga mat is out on the floor, it feels to be an elusive psychological comfort and less of a friendly reminder for exercise. 
  • No commute. Who knew I would miss the drive to the office in the mornings. 

Pros of lockdown: 

  • Catching up with friends all over the world – online reunions with different groups of close and old friends have been possible through Zoom, Houseparty and Skype group calls where we share the shock of this truly global pandemic affecting each of us in our homes and respective locations. Thank goodness for WIFI and internet.
  • Appreciating beauty even more as you watch nature heal. Is it just me or does the sunset look even more stunning and the birds chirp louder? 

Cons of lockdown: 

  • Uncertainty. Not knowing when I will be able to see my family or my boyfriend or other loved ones. 

Nonetheless, spring is here! 

And it’s a reminder that time will indeed pass, and time will heal. 

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