Guli, from Sinjar, Iraq
“On the day of the genocide, I was with my sons and daughters and their husbands and wives in Sinjar. We lived near the hospital. When ISIS attacked the first villages, the injured came to the hospital next to us. One of my sons went there and saw how many people had fled.
I said to my son 'we need to flee too'. But he said ‘we are surrounded by peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers), they will save us.’ But I was afraid and wanted to leave. However, he insisted that we should stay, so we stayed.
The next day, the city was almost empty, and our neighbors urged us to flee. They were saying that in other villages #ISIS were separating families, killing men and taking women. But my son didn’t believe them and said such things didn’t exist. He decided to take his gun and pack his things to go and fight ISIS.
When his sister saw him preparing to go, she said 'Are you crazy? Are you going to war? They beheaded all your friends, and they will behead you too.' But still he stayed focused, saying 'It is not true, things like this don't exist, I will go and fight.' Then my son’s best friend called him just as he was on his way to fight and told him: 'Are you stupid? We are in the mountains right now. They are killing us. We saw how they beheaded people. Why are you still in the Sinjar area? You need to flee right now. They will do the same to you'.
So thankfully, my son did not go to fight.”
“It was 9:30 in the morning, and my son said we needed to flee quickly. I said 'I told you so'. He just replied 'they beheaded all my friends already'.
My son took off his soldier clothes, because he knew they would kill him right away and behead him if they knew he was a fighter. We had to wake the children up. They didn't know what was going on. We didn't even have time to eat. I was like a crazy woman, waking them up, saying we needed to leave. We were the only ones still in the Sinjar area.”
“We were running, and we saw the people coming from Sibur, the first place that was attacked, and they were covered in blood. They had broken arms. They didn't have any shoes. They were hungry and thirsty.
As we were walking in the mountains, my son came to me again and said 'Please be careful with your water, because you will die if your mouth gets dry.' And I reassured him and told him I would be careful.
Then, a woman walked past me with her three sons. I realized how thirsty her children were, and I couldn't watch this suffering anymore. I gave them my water bottle. She said 'No, you need to keep it' but I insisted that she take it. I told her 'No, it doesn't matter. It's like I'm fasting, I won't eat and drink today.' She gave a little bit of water to one child, and then the other two children went a little bit crazy. I told her to give my water to all of her children, and she did. People also tried to help her by putting her children on their shoulders, and she tried to hold two of them, to get them to go up the mountain.”
“We walked for days. We wanted to go into a city, but people were fleeing from that city. They said to us: 'They took our women and young kids, and we are fleeing to the mountains.'
We just had poor shoes on, and our feet were bloody, but we still had to keep walking. The children were crying, but we didn't have any strength to carry them, we couldn't hold them anymore.
A woman we met was scratching her face, it was covered in blood, and the man with her was crying. I asked 'Why are you crying? What happened?' They said 'When we were walking here they came and took our three daughters away from us.'
We were all terribly thirsty. In the mountains, we found a small water source. There was just a little water coming out and it was very dirty and full of diseases, but we had to drink it. We stayed there for 7 nights. All the time there were children crying and nobody knew what to say. I didn't know what to do.”
“After spending a week in the mountains of Sinjar, we went to Syria, and then we crossed into Turkey. It took us so long to get there. We walked so much, and we were so afraid. When we were in the mountains in Turkey, we didn't know if some animal would eat us, if a snake would bite us, or if something else would kill us in the mountains.
During the journey, some people died. Children fell from rocks and died. The PKK came with animals to carry old people and children, but sometimes people would fall off the animals and die too.
My husband and one of my sons are still in Turkey. They stayed in Turkey because we didn't have the money to transfer us all to Greece. I still have one daughter in Iraq. And I am here, in Greece with my 18-year-old son and my 17-year-old daughter. And right now everyone is stuck everywhere. Some are in Germany, some are in Iraq, some are in Turkey and some are in Greece. I have seven daughters and four sons all together. Five daughters and two sons live in Germany. One of my sons is married, and has five children there.”
“I wish you will share my story and spread it to the world, share it with everybody. Make a movie out of it, so they can see who we are and what we have experienced, and so they can help us.”
Photo: Shannon Ashton (Instagram: @shannon__ashton) / Story: Kate Hubrich (Instagram: @advo_k8)