Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stories all around

Everyone has a story. Some more than others. To me, my story is pretty normal but thats because it is all I know, to other people my story is brave or exciting or extreme or just plain weird. But I was thinking the other day how easy it is to ignore people's stories because they can be uncomfortable to talk about or difficult. I think it is important though that people have a voice.

On Friday last week while I was waiting for the bus back to Liverpool from Manchester I met quite an interesting man from Northern Iraq. He had a very interesting story that he shared with me. I'll try and do it justice here and share it with you.

He grew up in a city somewhere in the North of Iraq, had a privileged childhood and was well educated at University with a Law Degree. However, it wasn't always the easiest or safest of places to live. He spoke about all the different wars that had occurred and gone on in the country during his lifetime and the difficulties it had made, the changes that had been imposed on the people. I don't know a huge amount about the different wars that he spoke of, some because they were before I was born but I can imagine the impact on society that they would have created.

When he was 25 (about 10 years ago I think) with the war making life much more dangerous and complicated his family decided to escape. Actualy he said alot of families left, in one day many many people packed up and let. They decided to go to Turkey and walked the whole way which took them about 20 days on foot. Most of this area is mountains and was not an easy journey by any means. Most of the time they had no food, he said he lost about 10-20kg in weight while they were doing this walk. They were exposed on the mountains in the day time it was very hot and there was no shade for them, so they would be sweating all their fluids out, and then at night it would be extremely cold. They didnt' have any water on them either so had to rely on the rare moments that they found a stream. On one occassion when they reached the top of the mountain they found a water trough for animals, which was full of slime and they were so thirsty that they still drank from the water even though their agent said not to because they would get sick. Thankfully they didn't get sick.

When they arrived in Turkey, they still weren't safe because even though they looked the same as the locals there, they didn't know the language and if caught would be sent back to Iraq. I think when they had first arrived in Turkey after not eating for a couple of weeks, their agent went to the town that they had arrived to and brought food back. Except he brought back a couple of hot pizza's!! Naturally they couldnt eat it, and all they wanted to eat was water and maybe a bit of bread, so those pizza's didn't get eaten. While making their way to Istanbul they managed to get a ride in a car/taxi which was going to take them the final distance, but this unfortunately was changed because ofa bit check point on the main road meaning that they had to once again walk over more mountains

When in Turkey their agent arranged for new passports for them and they flew to the UK where they then went and requested assylum. The guy I was chatting with has been in the UK for 7 years now. He was lucky because the process was quite straightforward for him and there wasn't any major issues with his paperwork. Now he works for an organisation called Refugee Action, helping people who have come out of situations similar and worse to the one that he was in.

I definitely haven't given his story justice here. While he was telling me I was thinking I should be writing this down, this is an amazing story. He should write a book about it. It was a situation so beyond what I can imagine. Seriously. Imagine abandoning everything you know and walking for weeks to a country you don't know, knowing that you can be shot and killed on site at any point of time, not knowing when your next meal is, constantly living in a sense of adrenaline fear and unknown.


  1. Pretty crazy to think about. I also find it amazing that you are an Australian talking to an Iraqi in Britain, about Turkey and now I'm reading about his story here in Canada. That's special. Thanks for the post.

  2. You're welcome! It ws ust ne of those things I just felt I couldnt keep to myself :)