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Ibrahim Abdulkarim greets customers in the mobile shop where he works with the energy of his youth. He has recently completed a course on mobile repair and is excited to put his skills and new equipment to use. But behind the excitement, there is a sadness.


“Yes I’m very young, but I’m like an old man because of what I have seen with my family. I was born in 2001, but life has aged me,” he said.


Ibrahim and his family are Kurds from Mosul. The family, he has eight siblings, had a good life in the northern Iraqi city. They had a nice house, good jobs and schools. But they didn’t have safety. The family became targets in the country’s sectarian conflict. One of Ibrahim’s brothers was tortured by militiamen. “If you saw what I saw, you wouldn’t want to see Mosul,” said Ibrahim.


When he was 13 years old, his older brother came home one day and announced to the family they had to leave. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the family left Mosul and came to Sheikhan, a town in the Kurdistan Region. It was just one week before Islamic State group (ISIS) militants seized the city in the summer of 2014.


Ibrahim does not have clear memories of what happened when they fled Mosul. He has vague recollections of abandoning their home and then sleeping on the street in Sheikhan. He thinks he was in shock and has blocked out most of what happened during those difficult days.


“When we arrived here in Sheikhan, we stayed in the streets. We had nothing,” he said. But at least they were safe.


Ibrahim did not return to school. It was considered a luxury his family could not afford. Instead he had to start working to help support the family. An older brother began to sell phone accessories on a street corner and Ibrahim worked with him. Two years ago, they moved their business into a shop.


“Since I was a child and held a mobile, I liked to play with it and figure out how it works, but I never had the chance or money to take a course,” he said. He got that chance this year when he was offered a spot in a training course from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).


The month-long course taught participants mobile repairs and basic programming.


Ibrahim proudly showed off what he learned, pointing out sketches of the inner workings of different phone models in his notebook and then opening up the back of a phone to demonstrate what he can do. Scratched and cracked screens are one of the main problems his customers are looking to fix and Ibrahim can easily change screens. He can also change water-damaged microphones and charger ports, perform mobile updates, and transfer information between phones.


After completing the training course, he was given a repair kit including tools, multimeter, and DC power supply. His equipment is carefully set up in his brother’s small shop and Ibrahim proudly wears a UNIDO t-shirt.


“I’m very happy with the course,” he said. “I learned what I wanted to.”


The UNIDO course has given him formal training he had to miss when he left school to begin working at a young age. It’s set him up on a career path and Ibrahim is eyeing a goal of learning more about mobile phones, expanding his knowledge into computers, and maybe one day, opening his own shop.

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