Kurdish woman spreads Christmas joy in Mosul

Santa Claus has come to the war-torn Iraqi city of Mosul.

Though this isn't a jolly man with a big white beard but 23-year-old Kurdish Muslim activist Shaimaa al-Abbasi - on a mission to spread joy in the northern Iraq city that's seen so much suffering.

"I distribute simple gifts to make children happy. The children need joy especially, because what Islamic State did during wars and the crisis really affected their morale."

For children like Tayma, it's a thrill to see Santa in her city. She says she hopes she'll come back every year.

Like many in Mosul, al-Abbasi was displaced to a refugee camp along with her family when Islamic State took over large swathes of the country in 2014.

They were defeated by Iraqi and coalition forces in 2017, but the devastation of the battle is still visible.

"I suffer mentally when I see the scale of the destruction, but I always try to become stronger so that I can approach these children and make them happy. Because when I was a child, I underwent similar pressure."

As well as spreading festive cheer, al-Abbasi volunteers for several groups that organize activities for children and says she now hopes to complete her high school education.

Video Transcript

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

- Santa Claus has come to the war-torn city of Mosul. Though this isn't a jolly man with a big white beard, but 23-year-old Kurdish Muslim activist Shaimaa al-Abbasi on a mission to spread joy in the northern Iraqi city that's seen so much suffering.

SHAIMA AL-ABBASI: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

TAYMA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

- For children like Tayma, it's a thrill to see Santa in her city. She says she hopes she'll come back every year.

[MUSIC - "JINGLE BELLS"]

Jingle bells, jingle all the way.

- Like many in Mosul, al-Abbasi was displaced to a refugee camp along with her family when Islamic State took over large swathes of the country in 2014. They were defeated by Iraqi and coalition forces in 2017. But the devastation of the battle is still visible.

SHAIMA AL-ABBASI: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: I suffer mentally when I see the destruction, but I always try to become stronger so that I can approach these children and make them happy because when I was a child, I underwent similar pressure.

SHAIMA AL-ABBASI: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

- As well as spreading festive cheer, al-Abbasi volunteers for several groups that organize activities for children. And she says she now hopes to complete her high school education.

[NON-ENGLISH SONG]