Categories: Non-Fiction

Mehreen Farhan

I was living in Iraq with my husband back in 2014 when the menace of ISIS first erupted. I remember the fright among people back then. For all they knew, a killing machine-like group of people clad in black were not only cutting heads off, but they were advancing to the developed cities of North Iraq at an alarmingly fast speed.

Every year in March, the Kurdish people celebrate Newrose, a cultural festival to greet the changing of weather and the coming of spring. It is the most festive time of the year in Kurdistan. You can see families having picnics, barbecues, dances everywhere. There are laughing faces everywhere and the happiness is contagious.

But that was not the case in the March of 2014. People were too frightened to go out with their families. They stayed indoors and wouldn’t risk being careless in their happiness. They feared for their families.

That’s when the Kurdish army, the Peshmerga, stepped forward and asked their people to celebrate Newrose and leave it to them to protect their people and their borders. The Kurdish love their army and they did just as they said; they came out of their homes and celebrated Newrose as they would any year; an act of showing confidence and trust in their forces.

And so, when the festivities resumed, Farhan and I made a one day trip to Sulymaniah, a city that’s close to three hours’ drive from Erbil. Much to the dismay of our host, we planned to come back the same night.

It was very late already when we crossed Makhmour, a city as close as 40km from Erbil. We had taken a road new to us, a stranger shortcut since we wanted to get home sooner. And that’s when we saw something I’d never forget.

As we crossed the outskirts of Makhmour, we saw air strikes. Yes, you read it right: air strikes. At first I couldn’t understand what was happening. Half asleep, I saw light flashes at regular intervals dropping in perfect straight lines from a cloud, and later, pulsating orange light. Took me a good few seconds to understand.

Those were targeted air strikes on top of what seemed like a hill or a mountain. We do not know who was doing it and who was the target.

Half asleep, I saw light flashes at regular intervals dropping in perfect straight lines from a cloud, and later, pulsating orange light.

We were scared out of our wits. We drove as fast as we could. It was all happening pretty close to Erbil, the city where we lived. We came home and skimmed through all the main Kurdish channels we knew but didn’t find any news on it.

We saw just a glimpse of what war looks like. It was morbid and very depressing, to say the very least. To witness something like that with your own eyes is hardly exciting. It is upsetting and you constantly think of all the reasons why people fight and why some groups fuel these fights.

War is gruesome.

It is inhuman.



It is the most vile, the most devilish part of humans when it comes to surface.

This post was written on my social media as a response to all the anti-war posts over the developing tension on the assasinated Irani Army General, #QassemSoleimani.

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  1. Ayesha Waseem January 8, 2020 at 5:07 am

    It was a good read, which gave a good start to my day. I hope people understand, war is not a solution…

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