I’m Christian and proudly wear the Islamic Relief logo
My hometown is Qaraqosh in Alhamdania, northern Iraq. It’s a small town – a beautiful place. I have wonderful memories of evenings spent outside, chatting with family and friends.
I lived there with my mum and dad and brothers and sisters. We lived a normal life.
Qaraqosh was well known for all the weddings that took place in the churches there. There could be 80 couples getting married in one wedding season.
Then in May 2014, we started to hear rumours that the Daesh were coming. These rumours were then confirmed on the TV News. And that very same day we decided to flee. We fled with just the clothes on our back. And we went to stay with my sister who lives in Bartela. There were 60 of us took shelter in one crowded house. Three days later we returned home as we heard our town was safe again.
Three days after our return, we started to hear bombs going off far away. As the days progressed, these sounds got closer and closer. Then we heard explosions in our own town, right near the church, in the middle of the night. My brother’s daughter was so scared, so I told her not to worry, it was only a gas explosion. Four people were killed by the bombs in our town.
We fled in our car and just drove as fast as we could. Thousands and thousands of people were fleeing. Everyone was so scared. Some were in cars; others were in trucks and some people were on foot. People were screaming all around us. We saw the Daesh fighters. You could recognise them from their strange clothes and all of them had guns. People were shouting for help but we literally had no more room in the car and there was nothing we could do.
One girl fell out of a car and her family wasn’t able to stop and to this day no-one knows what happened to her. We are all praying for her.
I went with my parents, brothers and sisters to Erbil, but all the churches were full, so we drove on to Sulamaniya. Thankfully all of my family survived. I helped them to settle in before going to live in Erbil, the headquarters of Islamic Relief (my employer) in northern Iraq.
My father was very ill with pancreatic cancer and it was difficult to get the right medication he needed, which made his illness a lot worse. It was so difficult seeing him have to live in such difficult conditions. At first they were in tents outside a church. The priest gave them pillows, blankets and clothing. Then they moved into a school where they were dependent on handouts from local NGOs. Before the attack and my father’s illness he ran a farm with cows and grew all kinds of food, like potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber and broccoli.
Islamic Relief was very good to me. They allowed me to take enough time off to make sure that my family was as comfortable as possible. They were very patient with me.
Once I got back to work, I was very busy. Thousands of Christians were flooding into Ainkawa (a suburb of Erbil) every day. I would regularly recognise people from my home town; neighbours; friends’ mothers. It went on and on.
It was very hard seeing people so traumatised and I was constantly worrying about my family.
But I was pleased to be able to help the displaced people.
My job is very important to me. Islamic Relief represents everything that is good about Islam. About helping people in need. All religions are meant to bring peace and equality to everyone, so I see many similarities between Islam and Christianity in our day to day lives.
Islamic Relief worked very closely with the churches to find out where all the displaced people were and to make sure that the emergency aid reached those who needed it most.
I also tried to give people as much emotional support as I could. To tell them not to be afraid. We are here and we won’t abandon you. It was very shocking and upsetting to see how traumatised people were. One memory will stick in my mind forever.
I was delivering aid to a group of people and one man turned to me and said “Do you remember me? I am John, a friend of your father.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was one of the most respected people in our town. He was a chemistry teacher and he was a genius. He was a very strict teacher, especially during exams, and he was a renowned expert. He was an old man.
My heart broke when I saw the look in his eyes and he said; “Just look at what we’ve become”.
He asked me about my father and I started to cry. My father was already very ill by then.
Seeing John brought back so many memories of my idyllic childhood. And I just can’t believe how bad life has become. My dream is that one day I will be able to go home and life will be as beautiful as it once was. But I don’t know if that’s possible. The situation just seems to get worse every day.
Islam has existed for thousands of years. No-one can change what the real Islam means to people. I am a Christian but I am proud to wear the logo of Islamic Relief. This is the right Islam. And I hope that one day Christians and Muslims will be able to live together again in peace in Iraq like we once did.