Mosul, Iraq / May 2017
The Free Burma Rangers are an aid organization started in Burma with the goal to train people to provide relief in conflict zones. Their base in the jungle of Burma/Myanmar focuses on training their recruits to provide medical and general aid to those in conflict zones, war zones, and places of political unrest.
Before my time there, ISIS had taken over Mosul. The Iraqi government would have bombed the city to kill lSIS, but didn’t as they were torturing and keeping civilians hostage and using them as bomb shields. The residents of Mosul had become IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and were forced to flee from the city they live in. A large percentage of the people of Mosul are first Kurdish, then Iraqi, making up the largest minority group in Iraq. Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. They are well-acquainted with not belonging and being forced from their own homes. The people of Mosul are also unwelcome outside their own city. For centuries, the Kurds have been hated and unwanted by the rest of Iraq. Fleeing to escape death, the people of Mosul are refugees without refuge.
We would wake up at 5:00 am to families sprinting down the street with suitcases and screaming children. I saw men gathering armfuls of rations, with tears in their eyes, because they weren’t sure where their next meal would come from or whether their families would be safe. They had been used as bullet and bomb shields, and denied every human right.
A week before I got there, FBR volunteers were providing aid to a man who had just escaped with his family. He told them that he wasn’t sure where his son was. Soon after that, an ISIS member texted him saying “we have your son. Bring your family back and we will spare him.” The man refused, so they beheaded his son and sent a photo of it to him. I heard and witnessed countless other stories like that. This is why we must take in the refugee, the homeless, and the hurting. People are being displaced. Just like the Iraqi people in the Middle East, it’s happening right in front of us.
Our goal was to treat them like human beings and remind them of their humanity.