Days in these mine-infested fields begin like any other, whether they will irreversibly alter someone’s life or not.
‘“This fly is worse than Daesh (ISIS)” jokes Dawood Salim as he tries to brush a persistent fly away from his face with his heavily bandaged hand.
On the 8th of March 2017, Darwood, aged 12, had been tending sheep just outside Mosul when he stepped on a landmine. He lost both legs and his right hand.
“I didn’t know how brave he was,” his mother Nidal told me, “until this. They told me that after the explosion he kept trying to stand, even though his legs were so injured.”
By the time she got there, they had loaded him on to a tractor to get him to the nearest hospital.
“He was telling me not to cry. The more you cry, he said, the more I hurt.”
What made Darwood’s injury even more tragic was that it came just days after his family had been freed from ISIS control. For over two years, the family had lived in constant fear as they had sheltered Dawood’s uncle, who was wanted by ISIS.
“They took a friend’s father and decapitated him in front of his family. Just to send a message,” recalled Nidal. “This is who they are.”
They knew that if his uncle had been discovered, this would have also been his fate, and possibly the whole family’s. ISIS bribed children to inform them, and so Dawood had been too scared to have anybody visit.
Looking at her son, Nidal told me, “he could tell you a book of stories.”
A few days later, I asked her if she minded me photographing her son. Calmly and clearly, she looked at me and said – “When a child is injured like this, the whole world should see.”’
– EMERGENCY Surgical Centre, Erbil, March 2017