Iraq. A place where war, and depravity have been the most abundant
source of life and purpose that people have to cling too. Terrorism has taken these
people, the Yazidis, and made their lives a literal, living, hell.
This sweet girl was all on her own. She wasn’t playing with any of the other kids. She sat lonesome on a fabricated curb looking deep and hard into the rusty dirt. As I approached her with imminent caution, her ears locked into my footsteps, and she immediately stood up and put her back against the wall.
I knew immediately that the post-traumatic stress within her took over as this was protocol whilst a slave inside Mosul, Iraq, to the Islamic State. Hearing my footsteps reminded her of hearing the footsteps of the terrorists coming down the barracks where the children were beaten. She assumed that’s why I was there…to beat her….
Amongst the herd of children scavenging for attention and love, there was one set of eyes in particular that stood out to me. This innocent being was deathly afraid of anyone he could not recognize. He was born behind enemy lines, inside the death camp……as a slave. We are not certain that his mother, father, or his siblings made it out alive. The post-traumatic stress he has, even as a toddler, is currently running his life.
He needs help….
ARE YOU MY FUTURE?
I have heard some say that angels are real and among us. I think that they may be on to something. Eyes like fire, and a face of peace this young lady possessed.
She was a sex slave for Islamic State fighters. She was shared amongst the men, and at times, shared simultaneously. She was used to the point that the fighters sent her to the doctors they have captured, to have her “sowed back tightly” so that the soldiers could use her again, for continuous rape. The sowing of her private areas was so that the fighters could have their, “second virginity.”
WORLD STANDING STILL
As we walked the last few steps of safety to board our last flight to Iraq, one of our team members noticed the line was rather short, but dismissed it by saying that it was still early. I walked down the tiny little aisle, placed all of the photography gear in the overhead storage and got parked into my seat when my eyes caught visual of the remaining seats in front of me. I must confess to you that the abounding number of empty seats more than baffled me. There was certainly a part of me that knew it would have just a few passengers, but more than that, I speculated that it would be jam-packed! You see, working in the non-profit and humanitarian aid world that I labor in, we heard constantly that a plethora of aid workers and disaster relief teams were flooding Iraq with help and resources.
Sadly I report to you…that’s not the case.
The entire four-hour flight into Erbil, everyone on the plane had their own row to sprawl out on; and crazy enough there were abounding rows left with no occupant. That should give you an idea of the fruitless occupancy on the airplane. I justified and entertained this happening with the idea that many organizations had already launched all personnel into the country and were currently busting tail getting help to the people….oh man…what I was to find out later on….
We landed. We claimed our bags and began the heavy and enduring security process. Just fifty feet from baggage claim is the first border patrol check. Here we were checked out to make sure we had all the official paperwork that was required just to be able to get to the real border patrol agents who stamp your passport. When we moved forward, each person was given a brief interview by border patrol before our passports were even witnessed. My personal passport had stamps from several different, “high-alert” cities in countries where the Islamic State were currently set-up and wreaking havoc. Not only that, but the system shows I have been to Israel several times within the last twelve months which denies anyone access into Iraq. However, by God’s intervening hand, I was given the stamp and a big smile from the agent, “Welcome to Iraq Mr. DK.” Once we passed through the gate, all bags and cases were put through an x-ray scanner. Once they were scanned, the agents wanted me to open all cases with photo equipment which were then re-scanned. Finally, we cleared checkpoint one. We exhaustingly got on the bus that was to take us to checkpoint two. Anew, we were all scanned, along with bags, patted very thoroughly, virtually stripped, and then finally sent through to the last checkpoint where the same took place. Once we walked through the final doors we packed up the van, and went to crash at our place of dwelling for the evening.
Up bright and early the next morning we left for the war zone. It would be our home for a key portion of our initiative. As the van turned into the camp, we could feel dark, diabolical evil looming and crushing us into tiny bites for demons to feast upon. There was no immediate greeting like most places in the persecuted East that I have been. No life was found in any of the eyes of the adults we greeted. The children only cared about their picture being taken by my camera. That’s the only excitement that they would have for who knows how long. They would crowd around me almost knocking me down. It was incredibly dismal the way they had no respect for another human. They would push and shove their way in front of the camera….it didn’t matter who they had to hurt. The parents who seemed to have lost all hope, didn’t intervene at all. At one point towards the end of the day, I knelt down to show a few of the pictures to a couple of behaved children. No more than thirty-seconds went by and a storm of young ones sprinting full-force pummeled me to the ground. There were a few men standing by watching that helped shepherd the children away, and me, back to my feet.
I gathered my thoughts and began to be on my way back to the other two military personnel on the opposite side of the camp, when a very weathered and seasoned gentleman with what some may describe as a, “fierce” beard started in my direction. He approached me with vivid hostility. I wasn’t quite sure what the problem would have been, as we had highly official clearance to be inside the gates of this United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) holding. He began to speak to me in his language which we found out later on was a mix of his tribal language, Kurdish, and Arabic. The translator with me told me that he was having severe trouble understanding everything he was saying, but eventually made out the gist of what the old man was communicating. It was considerably to the effect of this: “the man says that he is sick and tired of organizations coming in and taking video, photographs, and interviews claiming that they want to help, and never returning.” He also said that,”…he knows we are the same way, and that he doesn’t like our presence here. He wants us to leave.” My heart cried inside for him. People from other countries were coming in, shoving the cameras in their faces only to leave and use the media for raising funds, never to return. Unfortunately, this guy didn’t know that this team had been in and out several times by this time. Between the language barrier, and his attitude, helping him to understand, was obsolete.
Never was it ever so clear to me that actions are deafening, comparatively speaking, to me that actions are deafening, comparatively speaking, to words….
These really are the front lines…
I'm Watching You