Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Even the lighter was mine"

In my last trip to Mosul, I met one of Internally Displaced Persons "IDPs". A man in his early fifties with a European face and light brown hair, the expression on his tired face and the way he smokes his cheep cigarette shows that he is passing though a hard time. It was easy to discover that he is Sunni from his name "Omar" and his broken Arabic dialect was referring that he is Turcoman. Omar is married a father of four children, the youngest is tow years old "I was lucky that the father decided to give up of his pride for a while letting me buy some sweets to the son". The family is originally from Telafar displaced to Mosul city living in a house with his relatives; one room separated into two parts with a curtain, the first part for the parents and the youngest son and the other part is for the three children. During our meeting, we had an interesting conversation together about his returning attempt story. The story per se was weird to me, but I said since we live in Iraq, everything is possible.

It happened that one week ago, the man with his family who were displaced due to the ongoing ethnic conflicts, decided to return home to Telafar. They were expelled from their home five months ago and they stayed in Mosul during that period.

Basically, driving from Mosul to Telafar takes fifty five minuets, but the trip of that family took six hours instead because of the checkpoints and barriers set up by the police and Iraqi army forces. “Checkpoints were even more than those in the military camps I used to serve as an officer for 6 years" the man said. Precisely, it took two hours from Mosul to their City and four hours just to arrive to their house inside the city. However, their arrival to their house did not put an end to their sufferings, yet they started to experience a new kind of hardship.

The irony was that when they arrived to home. The children where happy to see their garden stills green, "it seems that the neighbors took good care of it" the wife said, but they were shocked by seeing other people in their house. Their house was occupied by another family, there are new 11 persons in the house; a man with his wife, his 8 children and his mother in law. The new family was using all the furniture; the kitchen, TV, even their bedroom and clothes. Unsurprisingly, Omer asked those people what was happening and they started arguing, but at the end he found that both sides are in the same boat. It turned out that that family had no shelter after being threatened and expelled by a militant group and their house was taken by force. Moreover, the de facto was that "the recent displaced families started to take any empty house in other areas even if the areas are not safe because they can't afford to live in another city".

Thus, Omar and his family original family of the house stayed in their own house, not as landlords but as guests. They slept in their own guest's room and the other family prepared the dinner for them using their kitchen and the food storage they left behind when the left the house. In the evening, the heads of both families sat together and started talking about the situation in Telafar and how this City was a place where its people were united and integrated. They also talked about how families used to know each other and various tribes and ethnicities were leading a peaceful life. Then, Omar took a cigarette and offered another one to the other families head, the guest accepted the cigarette. Later, he picked up a lighter from his pocket to burn the cigarette, herein Omar observed one thing, which was the lighter; an old lighter works with kerosene called in Telafar "Fergusson", he realized that even the lighter was his! "It is very painful situation to find other people using your house, furniture…even your lighter, a gift from your mother, and then you have to accept that" Omar said.

The next morning Omar and his family decided to leave back to Mosul, while leaving; Omar asked the new family a last favor to put a side some of their furniture in one room and lock the door, but the new family said that sooner or later either the Multi National Forces MNF-I or the Iraqi Force IF will come to search the houses and they will break any locked door, so it is useless even to do that. The day after the family returned back to Mosul abandoning the idea of returning to their house again.

I just wanted here to provide a picture about the messy situation in Telafar "some says that Telafar is a smaller picture of Iraq"; it is really so painful to find another family in your house, using your furniture, even the lighter...and then to spent the night in your own house as a guest in the guest's room.

But indeed no one can blame the other because all are the same; the people have no more choices; moving from one empty house to another is a normal thing for those families who kept staying in Telafar. They used to look for a saver house with some stored food and maybe some more blankets or cigarettes and a lighter.

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