Mahmood, his wife and their four children are safe in a refugee camp after having spent almost two years under the rule of ISIL in Mosul. They fled six months ago and are still deeply marked by the dangers they faced. The news station France 2 filmed their arrival at a peshmerga barricade.
One night last April, after the curfew in Mosul, the family made their way through a minefield towards positions held by Kurdish-peshmerga forces.
With their goal just a few metres away, they were dealt a terrible blow.
Amar, the family’s eldest son explained what happened to him: “We walked a bit and passed the ISIL trenches. I straightened up like this, I looked over my shoulder, and saw my father and mother at my side, and then the explosion happened.”
A mine blast, left the boy instantly unconscious and permanently blinded.
His little brother, two and a half year-old Salooan, endured a life-threatening shrapnel wound to the stomach. A peshmerga soldier rushed to carry the child to safety.
The boy was saved. Mahmood, his father, said: “He was operated on to extract the shrapnel that was lodged here. He is a hero.”
A risky but necessary decision
Given the dangers they faced, the family are lucky to have survived. But as the mother explained, they had no real choice but to risk escaping. She told reporters: “We were under psychological pressure, women cannot leave the house, they are forced to wear the niqab. They have a great grasp over you.”
The family still have to live with the memory of their ordeal. Amar gave some insight into what life in Mosul has become for people. He said: “They (ISIL) are dogs.. If you don’t go to pray at the mosque they execute you. If they see you in front of your house during prayer-time they execute you. They take everything from us. If you don’t have a long enough beard they kill you. They use any excuse to kill you.”
Mahmood made an emotional plea to Iraqi forces and the international community saying: “I call on the security forces (in Iraq) and countries around the world to free the families from ISIL’s grip, from their oppression. If we do not liberate towns and cities and all areas under their control, families will suffer just like Amar.”