“It was raining shells and bombs in the old town”
This is how Um Umar from the old town in Mosul has quoted the situation when the battle was on. Out of 25 people crammed in her house, she was the best to describe the suffering.
On the edge of the old Mosul and its narrow alleyways, Kzraj was a thriving neighborhood lies close to where Iraqi forces had once started the fierce fight to retake the old Mosul from the grip of ISIS.
Um Umar, exclaimed “ how they were bombing a neighborhood filled with civilians!” Then she resumed that “ISIS fighters were appearing from time to time, and when a bullet being broken out, the reply would be ruthless, regardless to the civilians” living in the quarter, she released her breath what she would’ve hold and said “ god saved us “
In the time, when ISIS didn’t permit people to escape towards Iraqi security forces, Um Umar like hundreds of families had managed to flee. The houses in many cases were literally turned into mass graves, and the lucky ones whose corpses would later be found by their beloved ones, if there was left any. Meanwhile Um Umar had seen the atrocities being committed by the frenzied ISIS insurgents in their last days, and most of the massacres would happen to those who had failed to escape. Then, ISIS would genocide them in a horrific way to deter other locals.
She wiped her tears after plunging into a moment of silence when she recalled her neighbor. She nodded “ yes, he was the sole child that his parents wanted to save him from an imminent death. But they didn’t know that they had sent him to the certain death. He was caught with handful of young people in a boat, while they were initiating to cross Tigris river to the liberated, eastern Mosul, that part of the city had preceded Western Mosul in liberation. But according to a women who saw the homicide, that Ali’d been crying for while, begging them not to kill him because of his parents who would really die after him, but ISIS insurgents had ignored his tears, and with no mercy shot him in head and threw his corpse in the river”
I asked Um Umar_how did you dare to flee, disobeying ISIS that were lurking locals?
“ It wasn’t my idea, I preferred to die at home rather than seeing ISIS pulling one of my sons to kill before my eyes. We fled because of the escalating bombing over the houses. I don’t want to illustrate who was bombing but let the world investigate and come out with the shocking results, and it’s what we already begun to hear in Western media.
In that days, my son Ahmad had been roaming the neighborhood striving any route to flee. We didn’t know that Ahmad had agreed with his friends on every details. To take the next step of the epical escape, we had to pass through a long argument.
In that bleak evening, Ahmad returned ashen and intimidated, saying “hurry up hurry up!”
“I found the way to escape, secured!” He whispered
Me as a mother, I abstained to take the gambling at first. But as I saw everybody was rejoicing while preparing, I changed my opinion, and decided to risk. I knew that I couldn’t have prevented them from the last dimming hope, looming in the twisted sight, like our alleyways, the roads that we knew, they were stirring in the horizon like snakes.
Escaping the abyss
As the dusk fell, we abandoned our house, leaving everything behind. The house where we were trapped for months, since the military operations in Mosul started. That escape or exodus didn’t resemble any of the traditional images. Because the situation was unprecedented and extraordinarily.
We fled one by one spanning the twisted alleyways in the old Mosul. From door to door where specific houses had been rowed as safe stations for dozens of families who look for their survival. We were stacking ourselves in the houses of people whom we once saw in the neighborhood and greeted, perhaps we were upset with them, but that night they were next to kin. We had a shared life or a shared death. Children were crying from empty bellies, I didn’t want to finish all the cookies in my purse slung on my tired shoulder, because I knew that the road wouldn’t be short or even we could be trapped for days in one of these houses, then, if I would’ve finished the food for one night, the chance to survive would be slim.
It was raining in a dark old gloomy neighborhood, my dark dressing was stained with mud and dirt, rubble being conveyed by water steam to form a muddy ponds, would bog down our steps somehow. It was the debris of people’s dreams and prove on the world hasn’t become yet a better place to live. In some phases of that horrible advance, we had to sprint in the main street where ISIS patrolled it densely. I got stuck with my son Ahmad when everybody had crossed. That had happened after ISIS fighters popped in the sight. We had to retreat somehow. Our people, looked at us in what seemed to be a farewell gaze. We indicated that they should quickly vanish in the sight, while I and Ahmad who carried his infant between his arms, we disappeared in the darkness, cuddling the child so as not to cry. 15 minutes would go before Ahmad’d studied the situation again and when it was a space to pass, we sprinted like ghosts in the darkness to the other side of the neighborhood. We didn’t have any idea where the others been crammed at that moment. Or even we weren’t sure if they were at large still or doomed. I was intensely worried about the rest of the family. But we kept on walking to our elusive dream. I was distracted and following Ahmad, then we heard steps flanking the rain trampling foot. Two men seemed to be guarding the place appeared. I was shocked, and I would hide Ahmad so they wouldn’t killed him. They might understand that I was an old lady with a child. I kept on walking and then, they stopped me. “ do you want to slip out, old lady?“
“ No, but I am looking for my relative’s house that I lost because of the rain and darkness” I answered
Then, their facial features turned into laughter and they said “ you have survived, and we were waiting for you after hearing that You and your son have lost the way, welcome inside the house. They escorted me to the house, where the rest of the family supposed to have been kept”. As I entered, I saw the rest of the family with the other families, Ahmad’s wife was waiting with tears. As she saw me, she scooted up next me and took her infant to her chest and a moment would passed before she asked about her husband, Ahmad.
In that time after I was sure that the two guys were honest with their claim, and it wasn’t a trap installed by ISIS, I rushed out with the two guys to search for Ahmad.
I knew that this house was the last station just before getting the gate to the world, after series of houses we used as a shelter to mitigate our appearance while we advanced in the heart of Mosul.
The last attempt
We were hurtling in the dark neighborhood from corner to corner in a hope of finding Ahmad. It was a deed of suicide to shout because we would expect ISIS any time to pope up like hyenas. My heart was jumping because I was the one who had suggested the idea of concealing Ahmad as a response to a mother’s heart who would do everything to protect her child. For a moment I thought that he would come back, and ISIS glimpsed him alone, then they attacked him. Now it’s half an hour had gone in vain. I rather come back to inform rest of the family to help us in the search. We couldn’t trust the place, neither the time. So, the family rushed out in hope of finding the lost lamb. The children were silent, or they might have enjoyed being outside after months of detaining in home. Absolutely they didn’t estimate the magnitude of the disaster. After one hour passed, we were deployed like a military squad looking for Ahmad. My older son Umar showed up and whispered that we must leave this place immediately, otherwise we won’t be able to leave it forever. I told him that I cannot leave without Ahmad. He said that do you prefer losing 24 soul for one soul who might have found another route to survive and he might be by now waiting for us. I replied that Ahmad might be gotten caught by ISIS. Afterward I contemplated to save what was left and realized that in both cases it would be useless to keep searching because it went out of our hands.
Intimidated and his teeth gritted for what he saw mixed with coldness, although it wasn’t that cold. The normal line between different feelings could be erased when the situation would unleash like a broken dam!
ISIS fighters have just killed a family trying to escape to the apostates and infidels, he heard them from a distance shouting Allah Akbar!
He flitted his glance and hid behind a rubble of a bombed house and took a linger to listen more details that he could identify the massacred family, while the tread was upping. Ahmad slumped behind a barely standing wall to hide himself good, that ISIS could not glimpse him. They apparently had finished the job and they would talk about it. He prayed not to hear anything that it could lead him to what was swirling in his head. He’d had the last connection with his family when his mother hid him and walked away to camouflage the two guys. They might’ve been a trap to let her go and then track her to where she was supposed to end. Thereafter they might have killed all the family when they discovered the truth. The rain increased and ISIS who clutching their rifles walked carefully and arced to eye any imminent enemy. Ahmad knew that for ISIS, everyone out there was their potential target. Because simply the city of Mosul had turned into a battlefield and the narrow alleyways would make the fight even harder. But for ISIS, the old town is a friendly arena, while the locals made up the best shields. Unlike the modern armies who dedicate huge sums to create the super soldier, who would fight under any conditions, but not in an old city stuffed with innocents.
Ahmad have heard that ISIS elements who barred people from different habits by the name of god, they were themselves doing these taboos, under rug. Exactly like what he just saw from the hole in the wall. One of them had handed tablet to each of the men who gathered under the opposite house. They probably couldn’t keep fighting without getting high. They’ve become a killing machine with two kinds of tablets. The pill that’s taken in form of speech, called the brainwashing being done by Shieks and what’s called a religious scientist. The pills of a dream that entails a beautiful virgin girls who await for the ISIS insurgents’ arrival, after death. This could tell, what kind of life that these folks had lived in the past. What Kind of a turbulent childhood they had experienced. Vividly life without love for different reasons. The way they looked, the society they lived in. All this contributed to suck the sense of life from these beasts.
A bright light like atomic bomb flashed in the neighborhood. Ahmad kept his position so the frenzied ISIS wouldn’t feel that someone was next to them. They reacted in their usual way to the bombing. They were densely shooting to the heaven and scampered to change their position.
Ahmad just jumped out of his position and run quickly in different direction. He didn’t really have any clue where he was heading even. But what he was sure of, that this zone would be immediately swiped out by the Air Force as a react to ISIS shooting. Yes, this was the way how the battle had been handled in Mosul. Both sides had their war objectives that they wanted to achieve whatever the price was, while the innocents who were trapped in the old Mosul, their elusive objective was only to sneak out of war, they weren’t in anyway involved in it. Only their guilt that they were born and lived in the wrong place and time.
Ahmad hustled, running away from the imminent disaster that would happen after a short while. The blow sparked off in a scene of a war movie. The light of the bombardment had brightened the night, and for a moment the alley seemed to be have been fully devastated that Ahmad himself who for long had dwelled in it wouldn’t have recognized it if someone showed him a photo of it.