Bashar huddled with his family on the back of an Iraqi security forces pickup truck after finally fleeing an area of Mosul still held by Daesh.
As government forces earlier this month advanced on the city – the last major population center held by Daesh in Iraq – the family was herded with residents from outlying villages into Mosul by the retreating militants.
Eventually they got lucky and managed to escape – trekking homeward on foot before the small group he was with managed to attract the attention of Interior Ministry troops on the other side of the Tigris River.
The troops sent a boat for them and brought them across on a last leg that finally saw them get out of Daesh territory.
“We saw the security forces and started shouting to them so they came to us,” Bashar told AFP, shivering in the chilly evening air. “I swear we are going to die from cold.”
What they left behind, he said, was an increasingly desperate situation for civilians in the bulk of the Mosul still controlled by Daesh as Iraqi forces battle fierce resistance while pushing slowly into the eastern part of the city.
“I swear the situation is not good – shooting everywhere, families sleeping in the streets, people are so tired,” he said. “They are in the middle of the fire.”
The United Nations has reported that Daesh forced “tens of thousands of people from their homes in some districts around Mosul” as Iraqi forces pushed the militants back.
Among them were Hassan, his mother and their family, who said they were “driven like sheep” toward the Daesh bastion when the government offensive started.
“Mosul is full of people. They lack proper accommodation. They don’t have food,” he said. “They are just waiting for their destiny.”
Hassan’s father and some of their relatives are still trapped inside Mosul, so he asked AFP to use a pseudonym and his mother refused to give her name.