Escape From Mosul

Vager Saadullah
Oct 17, 2014 · 5 min read

Amsha Ali and her son ran from Islamic State with the help of kind Iraqis

Amsha Ali is a young Yezidi mother. She has a one year old son and is six months pregnant with her next child. She’s only 19 years old, but in the last few months she’s experienced a lifetime’s worth of hardship.

When Islamic State seized the Yezidi town of Sinjar in August, militants killed her husband, kidnapped her and sold her into slavery.

She managed to escape. It wasn’t easy. She was in Mosul, the heart of Islamic State’s territory in Iraq. But she would soon learn that Mosul isn’t just full of terrorists.

There are good people in Mosul. And two of them came to her rescue.

When the militants began their bloody advance into Sinjar, Amsha and her family fled. She said that as they tried to leave Gir Ozair district, they saw hundreds of dead men, women and children.

They spotted what they thought was a Kurdish Peshmerga checkpoint and headed toward it.

But Islamic State fighters had taken over the checkpoint. The militants killed Amsha’s husband Khalaf Khaleel on the spot. Then they took Amsha, her son, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law and loaded them onto a bus—along with about 40 other women—and took them to Mosul.

“The bus driver was from Mosul,” Amsha recalled. “I swear that he was crying for us and saying that he didn’t want to take us from our homes, but he had to because they would kill him, otherwise.”

When they arrived in Mosul, the militants herded Amsha and the others in a hall with about 2,000 women and children. All of them were from Sinjar or its surroundings.

“At the beginning, the Islamic State fighters were coming to buy us. They were choosing beautiful Yezidi women and they were killing the Shiite women,” Amsha said. “They took our dignity and honor. I wish they had killed us, too.”

Amsha said that the militants forced the captives to smile for pictures. The women asked one of the fighters why they were killing Yezidis.

“He said that we are infidels and not Muslims, that is why they kill us,” she recounted. “I asked them why they kill Kurdish Muslim women. They said that it is another matter.”

A local fighter from Mosul paid for Amsha and took her to his house. She said he was a very dirty man with long hair and a beard. She recalled that the man left every day to go fight with the militants.

“He wanted to treat me as his wife, but I resisted and told him that they killed my husband and our relatives,” she said.

But she continued resist to her captor. He eventually grew tired of Amsha and decided to sell her to a Syrian militant. He went to meet with the Syrian, leaving Amsha behind with other militants.

One night, she knocked on the door to the room where the guards stayed, in order to ask for water for her son. But nobody answered. She realized the guards were sleeping. So she got her son water and then she and the boy fled into the night.

Amsha and her son. Vager Saadullah photos

They walked for four and a half hours. An Arab man stopped her and asked where they had come from and where they were going all by themselves at such a late hour.

Amsha told him the truth. The Arab man took them to his house. He hid them there for three days.

“He was very kind to me and gave me his phone to call my family,” Amsha said. Eventually, her rescuer hired a Kurdish driver to take Amsha to safety. The driver gave Amsha his wife’s ID to help her pass off as a Sunni so they could get through Islamic State checkpoints more easily.

“When we arrived at an Islamic State checkpoint, they asked us where we were going. We said that my son was sick and we were going to take him to the hospital.”

They eventually made it near Bardarash—an area under Peshmerga control. The driver took her to Kurdish troops. The Peshmerga helped her call her brother Faris, who took them to the town of Sharia to live with him and his family.

Amsha’s mother-in-law called Amsha five days before our interview. She told Amsha that she was still in Mosul—and that this would be her last call. The last word from Amsha’s sister-in-law was 20 days before our interview. She told Amsha that she would kill herself if her captors sold or raped her.

“We are very thankful to the Kurdish taxi driver and the Arab man who saved my sister for three days in his house,” Faris told War Is Boring. “We don’t know how to thank them because we don’t know them.”

He said the Kurdish taxi driver told his sister not to ask about him or try to contact him. He told her it’s too dangerous. But he promised that someday he would come back to visit them.

Amsha was deeply traumatized by her experience.

“I’m safe, but my thoughts and heart will never be able to be free from them,” she said. “Because I cannot forget the moment when they killed my husband, or the hall full of 2,000 women. Or what they did to me.”

War Is Boring

From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, exploring how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world

    Vager Saadullah

    Written by

    MSc in International Relations & Journalist based in Kurdistan Region of Iraq

    War Is Boring

    From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, exploring how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world

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