MY HOLIDAYS IN HELL!
Father-of-four leaves family behind to visit Iraq and other war zones
WHEN Andy Drury shows you his holiday snaps, it looks like he’s just come back from a war zone. Which is not surprising – because that is exactly where he has been.
The building firm boss is a veteran war zone tourist who has visited trouble spots including Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Chechnya.
Now he has become the first British tourist to visit the battle-torn Iraq city of Mosul since the fall of Islamic State.
Mr Drury, 53, spent £4,000 on a threeday ‘holiday in hell’ trip to northern Iraq which took him to the former IS stronghold, which was recaptured by the Iraqis in 2017. His holiday snaps show a city reduced to rubble by war.
During the trip last month, Mr Drury, from Guildford, Surrey, spent a day at the former war frontline near Kirkuk, another day in Mosul and the final day at a refugee camp. He said: ‘I must be the first person to have been a tourist in the ruins of Islamic State.’ He employed a guide to help him get around, but wore no protective clothing and was in constant danger of kidnapping, beatings from rogue militia and even death.
He said the drive to Mosul was ‘like an apocalyptic film’.
Some areas were ‘completely flattened’ by air strikes and there were menacing militia on every corner. Mr Drury saw marks on the sides of buildings to show where Christian families once lived before they were taken over by IS extremists.
He said: ‘ They didn’t just label the houses – they dragged people out and killed them. They’d be shot and killed and then IS would take control of the building with their guns waiting for the final battle to come.’
Around Mosul there were reminders of former residents, such as plates with rotting food in the rubble and a swing that was once in a children’s playground.
He said: ‘You could smell the death. It’s strange – you knew that thousands of people had died where I was.’ Mr Drury found a man watering a plant amid the rubble and soon his family appeared beside him.
He said the entire family had ‘bits of debris in them’, adding: ‘The man said every time there was fighting, you were running from one house to another because you thought the air attack was going to be there, and you ran between bullets like rain to get out.’ In another conversation with a local resident he was told how the end of the IS regime came when the Iraqi army decided to ‘obliterate’ the area as they were losing too many men in street-to-street fighting.
The final day of his ‘ holiday in hell’ took him to a refugee camp where there were nearly 50,000 people. Women suspected of being families of IS fighters were separated off. He spoke to a woman who admitted two of her sons had joined IS and said that her husband was probably dead.
She believed at least one of her sons had also died. She said she regretted her sons had joined the terror group because they could not now provide her with money.
A shocked Mr Drury said that, in order to survive, she sold one of her daughters to a cousin for cash. He added: ‘I thought to myself, “What has made this woman like that? She spoke about her son dying with no emotion. Was she evil? There probably is something human in her somewhere.’
The builder also visited the frontline in northern Iraq during the height of the fighting in 2016.
He said at the time the main motivation for his trip was to change misconceptions some British people have about Muslims, seeing them as an ‘enemy’.
‘It was like an apocalyptic film’
Home: Andy Drury, wife Rachel and children. Right: In a war-shattered building in Mosul Devastated: The hospital complex where IS fighters made their final stand. Above: ‘I love Mosul’ sign on the city’s outskirts