‘I HAVEN’T SEEN SUCH A WAR’
Saddam era is nothing compared with this, says 90-year-old woman
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.”
Khatla Ali Abdullah resting as she fled Mosul with other displaced people last month.