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“Different choices, but the horrors of war have struck them both”


Marwan’s mother has been living in 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 voyage. The combat, however, was drawing nearer and nearer to their neighbourhood. Daesh militants no longer were letting anyone leave. Those inside the city would not be able to exit.

Then, one morning, an explosion destroyed everything. Perhaps it was a Daesh-launched mortar, perhaps an American aerial bombardment, or perhaps a rocket sent by militant Shiites trying to conquer the city. It really did not matter who it was; everyone was hurt, and the house destroyed. The next day, Marwan and her brother ended up, badly wounded, in a bed in 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.

A child in one of the Erbil's Emergency Hospitals beds

Abdul’s mother also has been living in 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 recently 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 awoke in a hospital bed, and with one leg amputated.

Should people stay in their own home, 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 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, from Iraq