The extent to which different cultures and communities co-exist here in Ashti can be encapsulated in the pronunciation of a single word: Sinjar or Shingal? They may have a different spelling and pronunciation – depending on whether we’re speaking Arabic or Kurdish – but both names refer to the same city in Iraq, on the Syrian border, whence thousands of families fled in 2014 due to violence perpetrated by ISIS. Mirza (53) also comes from Sinjar, which he was forced to abandon as a result of increasing violence and insecurity.
“When ISIS started killing men and abducting women, that’s when I really started feeling scared. I was scared that they would take away my wife and daughters.”
The journey to Iraqi Kurdistan was anything but easy for Mirza and his family:
“We first went to Syria, where we stayed for 200 days. We had nothing with us. Then we arrived here, where we were given the first few essentials we needed to live: clothes and a bed.”
Mirza’s wife sits at his side as he describes the journey that brought them all the way here. She explains how concerned she was about her husband’s cardiac condition.
“We discovered that Mirza had a heart condition in 2005, when we still lived in our city. At the time, violence between Arabs and Yazidis was stopping us from living a tranquil life. If my husband had gone to Mosul seeking medical care, he would probably have been killed.”
Here in Ashti, the staff at EMERGENCY’s Health Centre have come to know Mirza, his story, and his illness – and have worked to provide him with the treatment he needs to begin on his path toward recovery. Thanks to EMERGENCY’s Regional Programme for Cardiac Surgery, Mirza was transferred in June 2015 to our Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, where he underwent a corrective operation.
“When I arrived in Khartoum, I saw that all EMERGENCY’s staff were waiting for me. It was a wonderful feeling. During the 80 days I spent at the centre, I truly experienced what it means to give care without distinction or discrimination. Alongside me were patients from completely different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds. But we stuck together: there were no misunderstandings, and no difference was strong enough to divide us.”
Now, Mirza lives with his family in Ashti. He doesn’t know if or when he will be able to return to the life he led before arriving here. He can’t quite fathom what his future, and that of his family, will be:
“The situation is very critical. We have no idea what will happen to us”
EMERGENCY’s Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration Centre in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, is funded by EU ‘European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations’ (ECHO).