In Turku marketplace 2016
Still dreams of better life…
Photo shows Ahmed in Mosul technical institute 2008.
Ahmed came to Finland as an asylum seeker in September 2015
The story written by Ahmed Zaidan based on the interview with Ahmed Mahmood
• Ahmed Mahmood was born in Mosul in 1986.
• He was graduated from the technical institute of Mosul 2011 with high degree.
• He was qualified to study engineering in Baghdad technical university.
• He chose a specialist of less degree in Mosul rather than going to Baghdad because he has no relatives
there and for fear of the sectarian tension.
• He fled Mosul post ISIS had captured the city.
• He arrived Finland in September 2015. as asylum seeker. post 17 hours train trip from Stockholm to Kemi • Ahmed ended up in Turku refugee camp, waited for more than a year before he got rejected by Finnish immigration office. He was informed that he can live in Baghdad.
Between Mosul and Turku
Of the most dangerous spot in the history and the home of peace. Here in the south west Finland, where the first capital is in front of the sea that leads to the rest of the world. where the stories travel back and forth, Ahmed stands on the memories coast, narrating his tale…
I still remember, back in the summer of 2015, how Finland as a host country floated to the surface. I was impressed and fascinated to see in the news that the Finnish prime minister Juha Sipilä had opened his house to the Iraqi family that escaped from the hell in Iraq. I also remember the good reputation that Finland has in the human rights field and the friends talking about Finland that welcomes us. As well as the Facebook pages and groups based in Finland which have shown me that there was no obstacle to go there and get my papers done as long as I have no other safe refuge. The calls and appeals launched by Finnish activists to open the borders before everybody needed, I was eager to hear all that. These stories have illuminated me to find my way to this country.
Media also has played a big role in creating my choice that Finland might be the right place for a man who had sneaked from the most dangerous city in the world, in bid of holding on the air of the peace. I left behind me 4000 km, the distance which I decided to put between my hometown Mosul and the new homeland Finland . The humanitarian initiatives in Finland have been always seducing the vulnerable human in me that was in need to be warmly embraced by such kind hosts that say ” Welcome to your safe refuge!” Safe refuge, a roof that protects me from the rain as in Mosul no roof could stop the bombs fall.
The amount of welcoming influx from Finland didn’t make me think for a moment that the dream of living in a safe home would be a nightmare, chases me throughout the two years. I lived the horrific days, post the disaster in Mosul, taken place by mid of June 2014. When we had woken up at that unforgettable morning in Mosul, we saw the hidden terrorists unveiled their faces publicly. They were deployed in the streets instead of the Iraqi forces, that escaped without even fighting. We had no chance only to leave our house to the suburbs, for fear of the unknown. Yes, it was our first time to be displaced, followed ISIS capturing Mosul. But quickly, we returned as we are in Mosul, have our own world unlike rest of Iraq. Mosul is a city that relies on itself in everything and it has its customs and dialect. And that is why our boundaries is the borders of our city. The black map had been enlarging quicker than our escape even.
ISIS keens on promoting themselves through uploading high quality videos to the public .Their initial message they wanted to convey from Mosul was to show the world how they were warmly welcomed in Mosul. It was too easy for ISIS to film the first video that shows Mosul from their prospective. It was easier to bring certain number of pro the Islamic state people greeting the ISIS cars at their first military inspection hold in Mosul. They have claimed that all the people in Mosul had been waiting that Iraqi army to fall down for the Islamic state to be held. How come! Mosul is the most secular city in Iraq! True, that we have had a poor relation with the Iraqi forces who raised the religious banners that reflect their sectarian trend. Insulted the Mosuli locals for being Sunnis. but we are the Mosuli people, didn’t think a day to ruin Yunnan prophet mosque nor sweeping out the debris of the Assyrian civilization. That was what ISIS did. We are the city of the first musicians in middle east and the hometown of the rare Arabic manuscripts, sadly to tell you that all libraries have been burnt in Mosul during ISIS era.
Mosul could’ve killed its churches since centuries, but the true is that you can see the best image of coexistence in the same neighbouringhood, where the churches and the mosques have lived together for centuries. This is the long term peace is actually the core of being Mosuli
ISIS slaughter locals of Mosul for their previous job, despite the repentance .
Mosul is the hometown for Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Turkmans and Yazidis. But then, ISIS has grabbed the city, driven it out from its original peaceful people. The truth was rigged. And more than a million were displaced from Mosul, while 1,5 million are still detained in there. Hundreds of thousands have reportedly been killed and buried in vast natural holes, southern Mosul, known “Al Kafsah” some thing like cracking in the earth crust.
Photo emerges what is known for Mousli locals ( Al Kafsah) unknown source.
ISIS devastated the pair of the winged bulls that date back to nearly 3000 years .
I am one of thousands in Iraq but my status that I am Mosuli whom guilt that he didn’t defend his town against ISIS. I still ignore if I should’ve defended the Iraqi troops who had fled faster then the time I would need to get the kitchen. Yes the kitchen is our weapon’s store in Mosul, and we do have sharp knifes and forks, as well as long “Shiish of Kababs”.
Actually, We handed over the last weapon we had to the Iraqi forces during their searching campaigns, house to houses. They said “Trust us! We are here to protect you”… Then, we believed their claim. It was very simple and legal, but they had escaped, left us a meal for the savage eagle.
In case if we found our ways to what suppose to be the capital of our country, or what said to be a safe part of the country, we need to pass through too many phases that insult our citizenship. Any violence might be happened there, we would be accused of being terrorists as the poor displaced people were always convicted of terrorism. What the unfair prospective is that! We have fled the terrorism. We also need a sponsor who would guarantee and give a recommendation in case we have thought of living in Baghdad. Even though, if we would have managed to be there which seems more difficult than marching to Turkey, we would be restricted to find an escape goat who approves his name gets registered in the files Iraqi security forces. On other hand, no one could guarantee the local abuses or militias outrageous violations being carried against the Sunnis from happening. Yes, Iraq is safe for some people but not for us.
Mosul wasn’t safe a day to stay in. Mosul before collapsing was chocked by the Iraqi forces who mostly being sent from the southern cities. The leadership of the Iraqi forces up to the former prime minster of ALdawa party, based in Iran during the eighties of the last century.
Even though the existence of the enormous troops, it couldn’t prevent the assassination operations that had been harvesting many journalists, teachers, lawyers and governmental personnels.
Every profession is a potential target for the hidden terrorism that time, except those who work in the vegetables stores or of the manual labors. Yes, they might be a bit safer, but still they might be killed by bomb cars which do not ask for permission.
Despite the fact of my being in Finland but the nightmare still chasing me, That in any time, I could be deported back to the same place. The place which I was ready to lose my life for sake of fleeing it, as there was still glimmer if I could’ve won the new life rather than definitely losing and letting it go because of my previous job perhaps or my ethnic descent.
Do you see my friend! I needed the job in order to live in my city, but I have no thing to do with the fact of where do I come from!
I am imprisoned between two mad powers that fights against each other. Both of them see me according to their nature and agendas. They see me through their own lens, which is mostly dirty with hatred. They gaze me as if I were a prey.
For ISIS, I am that infidels who worked in high committee of election in the past. For Shi’a militias, I am that Sunni, of a descendant of that man who had stolen the leadership from Ali before 1400 years, and then let ISIS in to his town, accusing the simple locals, regardless to the giant army that had escaped.
Tigris river splitting city of Mosul from Al-Hurria bridge which has been bombarded for three times. Now it is out of use. Photo taken by Ahmed Zaidan in 2012 .
I have already said this, Punished on Daesh`s crimes… Daesh is the Arabic name of ISIS .. Yes, my friend, it is very true today more than ever. It is no longer only a talk but on18th October Amnesty international pressed the hot buttons, breaking the silence in launching the latest report of 70 pages showing the atrocities and abuses carried out by militias and government forces agaisnt internal displaced Sunni Arabs who fled their cities being liberated from ISIS grip.
The report exposes literally the terrifying backlash against civilians fleeing IS-held territory, raising alarm about the risk mass violations as the military operation to recapture IS-held city of Mosul gets underway.
On18 October Independent newspaper highlighted the report of amnesty. Also, Washington Post, on October 24 also published an article entitled with “As Iraqis flee the Islamic State, celebrations dampened by fears of revenge”.
Even though that revenge deeds aren`t new in Iraq but however I hereby that these crimes carried out by Shi’a militias is not far fetched to targeting me as a victim.
Daily Mail newspaper has published the story of children from Mosul being humiliated by Iraqi forces. The children were bitten by hummer on heads, accused of being ISIS.
How to return to Iraq and how to live in Baghdad, where the militias are the sole dominator. I can not choose to go to where I could be kidnapped. My corpse will be found later in Baghdad streets. Killed with torture traces.
Yes, my friend , the innocent victim that walked on feet to the certain death. Never seen the lamb running towards the butcher at all. So how come, they want me to live in Baghdad, where ISIS wears the formal uniform that waits to achieve another victory against those whom lives were on the edge of hell in their city that were handed over to ISIS.
Yes, my friend I mean every word I say.
In the summer of 2015. I was in Turkey with my brother who shared my trouble. We are both in such spot of the earth. The exile that pushed me towards one direction, not another, it is that to go forward. To overcome my fears of crossing the sea. There is always something stronger than our fears. It is clutching the glim of life, when we are surrounded by despair from every sides. When death and life both are paralleled, side to side , only a slim line splits them, called the last attempt. I did my last attempt. Many times we had to change our position for fear of the coast guards. We scurried up to the boats without any certainty that we would be safe, just to run away in bid of finding the safe home
My story of escape started when ISIS was looking for the former employees who ever worked to the high committee of election in Iraq. I witnessed that they started to arrest my colleagues. They exuded them. I knew that it was only a matter of time before ISIS would find my name. I was sure of that vibe, because ISIS had captured all the files in my previous workplace. I managed to conduct a contact with my friend who recently fled to Turkey. He recommended a Syrian smuggler to me. The great challenging was how to sneak secretly from my place to where the smuggler would pick me. I didn’t tell anybody except one brother. I carried a sport bag so that not to give any vibe to the taxi driver that I was going to escape. I didn’t carry any identification documents in order to avoid any likely ISIS check points. At nearly 12 pm. I became at the square, western Mosul, where the goods from Syria come and go. The smuggler told me that the afternoon time is the best for such adventures, because there is no that density of ISIS checkpoints. The smuggler has drained out the goods he brought from Syria. He would transport sugar from Mosul to Syria. I was in his van as a driver assistant so I had to talk in syrian dialect that no one can recognize my Mosuli tongue.
In that very moments, ISIS issued an order that locals of the capital of Islamic state Mosul are not allowed to leave, unless they have a formal permit or a medical report issued by the hospital.
By the evening we entered the Syrian soil. Yes, the trip was longer than usual due to the driver avoiding the dangerous spots such as the front with the Kurdish troops or the important checkpoints of ISIS that check the names carefully. But our trip within the territory of what so called the Islamic state, went successfully in Iraq.
We are now at the countryside of Al Hasaka. Then Al Musurha up to the most dangerous zone, Al Reqqah, It is the second most important stronghold for ISIS. The place where mainly ISIS was based first time. Before getting there, we had stopped in a restaurant called Al Nakiil, where the smugglers usually meet and exchange the deals. It was the time of ending the task of the smuggler who brought me from Iraq. He handled me over to another smuggler whom task was to transport me until the Turkish border. We couldn’t pass through Tall Abied district for its being a disputing area between ISIS and the Syrian free army. We had to chose the farthest routes as it was farthest of troubles as well. We passed by northern Aleppo in nearly four hours trip. We successfully managed to get the last stop which was a village of Turkmans, close to the borders with Turkey. It was a small house or dom or whatever, But what I remember that when I was cramped into the house, I saw other people that were willing to escape as well. We were fourteen individuals, including the two Syrian families. They were all from Syria.
By the midnight, our final journey on Syrian soil was to begin. We were all in the van. Crowded horizontally for fear or the reflected lights. The van had moved until arrived a jungle of olive trees. It was the last spot of Syrian territory. The borders was visible to our eyes. Only a railway then barbed wires and small trench, seemed for us as an easy ending of our hard journey. But, we hadn’t known that we would need the smuggler more then ever in order to guide us the right routes. The wrong step means definite death. Yes, the railway was filled with mines. Only the smugglers know where we should put our feet on. But still we had to wait for the borders guards exchange the duty. The tiny vacuum of the Turkish border guards absence, we would use it to running quickly towards the Turkish side. We have become in the first Village in Turkey. Where the garage was. We would take the first car headed to the city. Yes, now we are safe. I went with the Syrian guys who accompanied me in journey. I stayed at their fiends apartment. The first think that I had thought of while I arrived the apartment, was how to lie on the bed. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t think of eating or doing anything else. I slept deeply, I couldn’t believe that I had passed all these dangerous phases. Any gag or lapse was enough to end up my life, brutally.
When I have woken up. The first think I thought about was how to recharge my phone and let my family know that I am fine. I took a shower, then ate. I went to the bus station in order to take the bus that heads to Ankara, where my brother lives. After nine hours trip, I finally met my brother eagerly. My brother fled Mosul earlier. He is married and lives with his family in Turkey. He accommodated me for eleven months.
The idea of crossing to Europe came after I had felt that I am wasted in Turkey without any kind of documents and my stored money was about to run out. Day by day, the despair was grabbing me. The growing pressure tossed me away at the coast of the last attempt. I said to myself that even in case I would be drowned I am a martyrs, then. As I was fighting for any normal life.