Iraq: Difficult Decisions Amidst the Ruins of War

  • Iraq

“Marwan’s mother has been living in the hospital for two weeks. She has nowhere else to go. Before the combat started, she and her husband discussed their options at length. Should they escape to an uncertain future, perhaps in one of the refugee tent-camps sprinkled on the outskirts of Mosul, in the middle of snow and mud? Or should they stay 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, was drawing nearer and nearer to their neighbourhood. Daesh militants were no longer letting anyone leave. Those inside the city would not be able to exit.

Then, one morning, an explosion destroyed everything. Everyone was hurt, and the house destroyed. The next day, Marwan and her brother ended up badly wounded, in a bed at the “Emergency Hospital” in the city of Erbil. 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 erased.

Abdul’s mother has also been living in the hospital for a number of days, 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 more reason to stay. They hurried towards Tikrit, a city liberated from Daesh. Life was difficult, reconstruction was slow, but at least they felt safe there – until one day when an unexploded ordinance blew up in her son’s hands. He had been playing with four other children. He woke up in a hospital bed with an amputated leg.

Should people stay in their own homes, with their memories and belongings, knowing that the bombings will soon begin? Or should they leave everything, look for a supposedly ‘safe’ refuge in a nearby town? The departments of Erbil’s Emergency Hospital are full of children these days. These two families have made various choices, but the horrors of war have struck them both.

Probably, I think, as I observe the wards of the hospital, the one truly right choice would be one that all of us citizens of the world could make: finally, once and for all, to put an end to war.”

– Emanuele, EMERGENCY staff, from Iraq


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