Marwan’s mother has been living in the EMERGENCY Hospital in Erbil, Iraq, for two weeks. She has nowhere else to go. Before the combat in Mosul started, she and her husband discussed their options at length. Should they escape to an uncertain future, perhaps to one of the snow- and mud-covered refugee tent camps sprinkled on the outskirts of Mosul? Or should they stay in their home, so as not to abandon their belongings, loved ones, and memories?
They decided to stay, putting themselves at risk until whatever bitter end should arrive. They did not want to expose their children to a dangerous journey. The combat, however, drew nearer and nearer to their neighborhood. Daesh (ISIS) militants were no longer letting anyone out. Those inside the city were unable to leave.
Then, one morning, an explosion destroyed everything. Everyone was hurt, and the house demolished. The next day, Marwan and her brother found themselves, badly wounded, in beds in Erbil’s EMERGENCY Hospital. Their mother sustained only a few scratches, but had lost contact with her husband. The other two children, less seriously injured, were in another hospital. Their house no longer existed. Their past had been obliterated.
Abdul’s mother has also been living in this hospital for a number of days, her son and grandchild by her side. A few months ago, they decided to leave Mosul. The risks there were too great, and after two years of deprivation, they had no reason to stay. They hurried towards Tikrit, a city liberated from Daesh. Life was difficult, reconstruction was slow, but at least there, Abdul’s mother felt safe –– until one day, an unexploded ordinance blew up under her son. He had been playing with four other children. He awoke in a hospital bed, and with one leg amputated.
Should people stay in their own homes, with their memories and belongings, knowing that bombings will begin soon? Or should they leave everything, looking for a supposedly “safe” refuge in a nearby town? The beds of Erbil’s EMERGENCY Hospital are full of children these days. Marwan and Abdul’s families made different choices, hoping to protect themselves, but the horrors of war have struck both.
Probably, I think, as I observe the wards of the hospital, the only truly right choice is the one that all of us as citizens of the world could make: finally, once and for all, to put an end to war.
– Emanuele, EMERGENCY NGO staff, writing from Iraq