‘I HAVEN’T SEEN SUCH A WAR’

Sad­dam era is noth­ing com­pared with this, says 90-year-old woman

New Straits Times - - World -

KHATLA Ali Ab­dul­lah, 90, has sur­vived decades of tur­bu­lence in north­ern Iraq, but the frail grand­mother, who fled the bat­tle for Mo­sul this week, said the fight­ing there was the worst she had ever seen.

Car­ried across the desert by her grand­sons, un­der sniper and mor­tar fire, she was one of thou­sands who braved the dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous jour­ney out of Is­lamic State’s shrink­ing strong­hold in the west of the city.

“I’m a 90-year-old woman and I haven’t seen such a war,” she said in a camp for dis­placed peo­ple south of here, where she was taken by Iraqi se­cu­rity forces.

Khatla lived through Sad­dam Hus­sein’s quar­ter cen­tury in power, when Iraq fought wars with neigh­bour­ing Iran and Kuwait and en­dured a decade of dev­as­tat­ing sanc­tions. That was fol­lowed by a United States-led in­va­sion which top­pled Sad­dam and led to years of sec­tar­ian war across the coun­try.

“Even un­der the Sad­dam era, we were afraid be­cause of the atroc­i­ties and the killing,” she said. “But, that’s noth­ing com­pared to this phase.”

Since the launch of the mil­i­tary cam­paign in Oc­to­ber to re­take Mo­sul from IS, Khatla re­mained in her home in the city’s south­west­ern al-Mamoun dis­trict, now in the hands of Iraq’s US-backed Counter Ter­ror­ism Ser­vice (CTS).

At times, she took shel­ter in her base­ment with the 20 chick­ens that she reared — re­minders of her youth when she also herded sheep and cat­tle.

“I haven’t lost any chick­ens, not even one lit­tle chick.

“We were trapped in the base­ment and we could hear bul­lets hit­ting the me­tal roof of the chicken pen.”

Her grand­sons car­ried her for miles in the desert to reach the CTS lines, and then she was taken on a bus to a camp for in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple.

“We just want to make it through this war,” she said.

“This one will make sto­ries for gen­er­a­tions to tell.”

REUTERS PIC

Khatla Ali Ab­dul­lah rest­ing as she fled Mo­sul with other dis­placed peo­ple last month.

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