“Sorry mom it’s not our day”: the true refugee story of a young doctor and his family forced to flee their home

Mohammed B. Othman

The writer of this exclusive story is Mr Mohammed B. Othman, a bright young doctor from Mosul, Iraq.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Mohammed B. Othman, a junior doctor in Mosul city. Mr Othman is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belongs to the writer and does not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

He fell on the ground; he is not able to walk this long anymore. It is too much for his 3.5 year-old skinny body. I hold him cleaning his knees. It is so hot he told me, Of course it will be, we were in August the 21st of 2014 at the borders of Kirkuk Province in northwest Iraq. Yousif, my little brother, was the spoiled kid in the family. He came to this life when my youngest sister was 16 years old and I’ve just entered my 22 years. He was a gift from heaven.

We are still walking in the 4 kilometers transitional zone between the ISIS forces and the Kurdish Peshmarga, who thankfully saved Kirkuk city from a destiny similar to our home town Mosul. It is 2 pm and we are dizzy and nauseous of all of the bad broken off-road ways the micro-bus driver had to take in order to avoid the ISIS checkpoints and their mined streets. Here in the middle of the open filed I cannot see more than few meters in front of me. People are with thousands.

All of them are dirty, sweaty, dusty and tired. But they still insist to be alive and walk this way. I am wondering what the purpose of keeping alive when you realize that the future is darker than your dusky present. My mom interrupts my thoughts calling me to help her with the bags. I am already carrying so much, but still I can’t refuse to help the 43 years-old English language teacher. She always loved to look chic.

“Sorry mom it’s not our day I think” I said, taking the bag from her.

We were four; my mom, my sister, little Yousif and me. My father had to stay in Mosul to take care of our properties in the house so they won’t get robbed. Our neighbors had their houses robbed when they left.

“ISIS are thieves”, was what my father used to say.

He is a smart engineer and he always surprised me with his deep political analysis. My thoughts got distributed when a Peshmarga soldier asked me to throw my bags on the ground and open them all for checking. My mom was busy showing the other soldier our IDs. We spent 15 minutes reloading the bags after he took everything out.

We were happy reaching the promised land. Although it was 49C◦ outside the old bus that took us from the check point along with all the other poor families who escaped with us, we felt cold.

“We made it”, my sister said.

I was hoping that we really did a good thing and the next step is better than what we saw. We reached the city of Kirkuk around 4:30 pm with very hungry and empty stomachs. After a simple lunch, the fear that made us anxiously busy all the way between Mosul and Kirkuk thinking came back.

“Where shall we spend the night?”

In Kirkuk the rent prices have been increased more than ten folds the usual price, because Kirkuk now is the only safe place for those who run out of the three governorates who got under ISIS control.

“It is time to make good money”, that is what they were thinking.

I left my family and went on the streets asking for a place. I did not care where or how; just find us a place to sleep the night. I did that till my mom’s phone call reminded me that it is 10 pm .They could not stay outside any longer. I comforted her saying that I was with a guy that was taking me to a small house that we hopefully could get.

The middle aged man described the place like it was a Sheraton hotel suite with a Jacuzzi. Although we were both walking for half an hour in an unpaved muddy small roads I tried to believe him.

“Here we are”, he said taking the keys out of his pocket opening a big iron door.

What I saw was not even house, “it’s a garage”, I said.

It was really a garage, a long one with a small door at the end. Behind the door there was a 12 square meter room with and old closet, few worn carpet on the ground and a ceiling fan with no windows in the room. Next to the closet there was a curtain leading to the bathroom. I remembered the fancy bathroom that I had next to my room in our house, I insisted to have it privately for my room only. Time changes many things; I thought when I noticed how the guy was looking at my gloomy face.

I took the room and we agreed that if my family did not find a place the next day we would return here and pay for the next day. It was difficult to make him agree since new people are coming every day and some would pay him even more than us.

“Doctors are rich”, he said when he saw my university ID (although he knew I’m still student).

I nodded thinking how my mom and sister would think of this place when they just left our two floors 350 square meters house that we build like a modern icon. When we arrived I brought a tape with me to cover the broken electricity plugs and exposed wires in the walls so Yousif would not hurt himself. The tea and the simple dinner the neighbors offered us was enough to make us full and sleep immediately.

It was difficult to lie directly on the ground. We slept deep after this long and exhausting day. I was praying God for a better tomorrow, I was praying for those who are in worse situation than us and had no place to go to.

“Ignorance is the most dangerous human illness”, I wrote in my mobile notes and locked it, hugging my little bother to sleep hoping for a better tomorrow.

About the author

I’m a junior doctor in Mosul city, spending my hospital duties in the wrecks of the bombed smoky walled hospitals, my family returned to our house in Mosul while I’m still living in Sulaymaniyah city where I work as a medical representative as well, I see my family only when I come for the hospital duties. I am an IFMSA-Kurdistan alumnus and member of the Middle East sustainable peace organization. I am an ambitious dreamer; I hope I can be a part of making more global understanding and tolerance to help the upcoming generations to suffer less than us.

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