Sawsan: My story is that one of my brothers died young. Without my mother and father, I was raised by my uncle and his wife. My uncle died last year. His name was Mustafa Dino. Our house was at Bekhal, here. My uncle was sick. September Revolution Peshmargas came. I was six or seven years or so. There were bandits; they called them bandits. People would save two Dirham, my uncle and some other people would gather in our house and when I was so little they would give that money to me. Someone would say take it to Uncle Hamid’s house in Kanyaqure, Ruwandiz. I would take it there. They would ask me “you girl, aren’t you afraid of dogs?” I was so little, not knowing to be scared of people and I would say “why should I be afraid of dogs; aren’t we ourselves here domestic animal raisers? I will throw two stones at them and they will back off.” We went to this Korek Mountain for seven months, tanks and airplanes came and we went to the caves; when Peshmargas said that there were bandits.


Interviewer: You mean by the time of the September Revolution?


Sawsan: Yes, by the time of Karim Saeed and Sheikh Qadir and others. They would move around; we knew them. They would come to houses and visit them. They were Peshmargas, coming to houses to take stuff: cheese, bread and similar things. Well, we walked all over Korek; they said come down from the mountain and we came. Peshmargas brought down bread from a donkey’s back at this cliff. I was a little orphan. There was a child on my back. Somaya, who is now Mohammed’s wife, was sitting on a donkey’s back. The donkey was missing for an hour. We four families all looked for it until we found it with the girl on it. The girl had fallen asleep. She was not crying. Until we found her, there was fire from both sides, until we reached Baneziwke Hill. We stayed there for seven months. Peshmargas would take bread; we had cheese with us. Since then I have been doing this, way before my husband.

Interviewer: It means you were not married then?


Sawsan: I was little. Six or seven years old. When I would take these two Dirhams to the mountains, then we went to Korek and they would say give the money to so and so behind that hill. I would take the money from them, from my uncle and others and would not tell anyone until I reached the place. They would collect money, telling me take it behind there and give it to so and so. I would put it in my hands and whoever I reached I would not speak a word about it. They would not dare to give it the money to others or to other women. Or they would say take the money to Kanyaqure and give it to Aunt Hadya.


Interviewer: It means like taking letters and they would transfer money through you?

Sawsan: Yah, I swear to God I was so little. And now for God’s sake is it fair that they don’t give me whatever belonged to my husband? From Korek we came down and went to the people. My husband was a soldier, then we were not married. I was so little but we were all relatives to each other and were brought up in this Bekhal and Kanyaqur. We were with our uncle; we had no father and mother. They took two or three people and imprisoned them for six to seven months. People knew me well. Yet, they do not do anything for me for the issue of reimbursements for political prisoners. They took many people, my husband’s father and some other relatives. In Erbil they imprisoned them for six months. Later they sent back the old men. I was a child, almost not seven years old, but I remember they took the young ones, my husband and some others, to a jail I cannot remember. This is the prison; it’s written year 1962 until 1965. When he was back they made this ID for him. Look and read to know what jail it was.


Interviewer: In Kerbela.


Sawsan: From ‘62 to ‘65 they caught him. They all came back. They were sick. He had a surgery and lost a kidney after it. He had one kidney when he was killed. And that was in the Iran war.


Interviewer: It means he went to Iran, too?


Sawsan: Yah, we went to Iran, too, after I married him. But as for his imprisonment, it was when I was six or seven years old. When we went to Iran, I was by his side. I had two kids. Two or three of my children died here in Iraq. We went to Iran and came back. We were there for almost one year and a half. When he came back from prison, I was still a child and I can remember it like a dream. I was much younger than him, by ten to twelve years. After I married him, three of my children died here. And we went with all other people to Faqeyan almost three years. Then we returned. Then there were negotiations and during spring, the war broke out. All people climbed the mountains, some stayed in the town. They razed all the villages. We were in Iran for a year and a half, too. We were in Barzewe Camp, too, and from there they moved us to Karaj. Three months and twenty days we were at the suburbs of Tehran. From there we came back to Qasre Shirin. Also for fifteen or sixteen days we were at a camp and in the south also almost two years. Now in the south one of my daughters and a son died; I don’t know even their graves.

Interviewer: They were grownups?


Sawsan: No, they were almost one year old. The government officials gathered people, as if they wanted to let people go. They said “come and sign for supporting the Ba’ath regime”. My husband had a kidney. He had the surgery in Rumadi. I told him “you also go and like this people say you were a wood-collector or grape-seller”. He said “no, I will not say this because I’m Sayd, the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed; I swear I will not beg for a drop of blood.” He went. In Hitt they assembled all the people and they told him “come on Sayd Ahmed, we will all go and sign for Ba’ath, let them not give us anything but allow us to stay here for ourselves.” He said “I swear I will not beg for a drop of blood even if they cut off my head now.” He went and told the governorate’s official “I’ve worked for the Kurdish issue. I was on the mountains for six years. Also for six years I worked for organizing people. When this wife of mine was six or seven years old, she took our money to the people.” He said “I will not deny this and I’ll prove this to you today. If I have to become a Ba’athi today,” he said “I will not sign. How should we become Ba’athi, even if we stay here for one hundred years and whatever they bring or not upon us, even if they throw us into the sea we will not become Ba’athi.”


People, everybody, found an excuse and we were back. Four to five days passed and they said they will allow people to leave, Kurds to leave. Hitt is a city like Hawler. A governorate’s official whose name was Salih came to our home himself, saying “why you don’t move your house Sayd Ahmed?” And he said “we have collected out stuff” and it was in the lorry. They made two lorries follow each other for transporting people’s stuff. And we were in buses; people returned by them. The official asked Sayd Ahmed “why you don’t load the stuff?” He said “we have loaded it, let’s drink a tea, then we move with our neighbors.” I had two daughters; Shilan who is now wife to Aziz, your relative, was little on Sayd Ahmed’s lap. One of my sons was dead. Later, one of our daughters also died.


Interviewer: She was also young?


Sawsan: One of our daughters and a son died there. Our son died there, our daughter also died of measles later when people left. We went to the road. My daughter was on my cousin’s lap and another daughter was with me. And the son who was killed and whose photo is here was sitting next to me. I said “my son, why is your father not coming? Let me take a look.” When I stretched my head out I saw all soldiers and security people had gathered around Sayd Ahmed, he was calling them names. “Throw me into the sea but let my wife and son not die with the agony of not returning to their home. I will not beg for a drop of blood.” Meanwhile the convoy is on the way; there were more than three thousand families. It was evening, we were on the way to return to our town and village. I asked what was wrong. They said “they’re telling Sayd Ahmed that your wife and kids should get down and he is saying let my wife and son go, I have two daughters and it is only six or seven days that one of my sons died. Let my wife go back to her relatives; it’s ok, whatever they do to me, I’ll not beg for a drop of blood.”


He kept calling those Arabs names, and they kept laughing at him, putting their hands on his shoulders. There he was the guard to a center, near our house. He knew Arabic and was a bit active. He could find himself a job and they gave him nineteen Dinar, which was too much then. And I got off the bus asking what’s wrong. They said “we won’t let you go.” I asked someone there who was a little older than you are, in Arabic “why you don’t let us?” He had a small notebook in his hands and said “Mother, see this is his name which has come from Baghdad now.” And I said “I swear to God, by God, his name has not come from Baghdad, you’ve written it, you, Salih, have written it.” Salih came from the other side and said “Mother, you should not go. We have retained Sayd Ahmed because he has been reported.” I said “Didn’t you come to our house telling us to move?”


Rage caught me. My eyes were like blood. I ran. Salih took both hands of the man with the notebook. If Uncle Gafoor was alive now you could have him narrate it to you. I slapped him on both sides of his face. I caught him from behind and slammed him into the wall of the center. I did not remember myself after that. When I came to, it was midnight. All the people were gone. I remembered Uncle Gafoor said “Don’t do it, my daughter. My daughter, don’t ruin the life of this man, Sayd Ahmed. What a fight she has over the lorry.” And I said “let them kill me; Sayd Ahmed is saying he won’t beg for a drop of blood. They keep telling me come on and don’t return and we won’t let you go.”


My Children also were screaming in the laps of the relatives. I fell on the road. At night when I woke up again, it was after sunset. Two families were left. When I woke up later, they had also left. Then Sayd Mohammed came back, saying “Hashim has been arrested again; I would like to be arrested again because of Hashim, but I also like it if they let my family and kids go.” I said “May your home not be destroyed! Once you went and did not sign for supporting Ba’ath and now you’re crying for Hashim. God is gracious. Let us go back and maybe God will find a solution. He said, “but they have caught three people, all are my friends.” He was the fourth one to be arrested, but he was saying “let my family go; I won’t beg for myself; I’m telling you for six years I organized people and for six years I was Peshmarga on the mountains, so do whatever you want to me; kill me, throw me into the sea.”


Well, they did not even slap him once. When I was up, the relatives were around me, crying. I asked, “where are Ahmed and Hashim?” They said “they’re gone, they went to Rumadi.” They said they came back but you were still unconscious and they were gone. Some people were from Raniya. They also came and together with our relatives, they were crying over me. When I was up again, they were very happy, saying since the evening they had been crying over me, crying because everybody was gone. I called Samad. He said “yes?” I said, “brother, go to the road.” The lake of Arabs was as far as the street, which is seen on the other side. He said “Well, dear even if they give me one thousand Dinar, I don’t dare to cross that lake in this night. We’re already scared. Kurds are all gone and only we are left.” I said “Oh my misery! I swear to this Quran that your aunt went and wore socks and shoes and crossed the lake, saying to myself, “I will ask his friends, those with whom he was guarding, I will ask their families to see if they have seen Sayd Ahmed, I will ask them what happened to this man in this midnight.”


A voice came from far. It called “Hashim, your brother’s dear, don’t worry, we have rented a house, now we are bringing Namiq’s tractor to move the stuff in this night.” When the voice said this at once I returned home. Good old days! People were like sisters and brothers. I said “Samad I was braver than you. They are back.” He said, “I swear to God I also said their voice is coming, and I also said that maybe Sayd Ahmed will slap Zubeyda a little on this road. Then I said, no, to myself and returned, thinking that Sayd Ahmed is not that heartless to hit Zubeyda but will show his anger, saying ‘what are you doing on this road at this midnight? We left you dead.”


I was thus left behind, following Kurds. Men of that time were like that. Sayd Ahmed was not by my side. He had seen two or three towns, saying he has sworn that he would not stay in that village until the morning of the coming day. He said, “come on, where is the home stuff?” They told him “after you left they destroyed all your stuff. You went to Rumadi, left your family and kids behind. And after the other people left, we collected some beds and stuff, which are useable. They broke down everything; tossed them down from the lorry. Maybe some of the stuff was mixed and taken with other people’s stuff.’ He said “No problem, my brother.” We collected stuff of three families: our family, Samad’s family and Hashim’s family. We put it onto a tractor and it did not fill it. That night, we went and called Namiq who said, “they have also kept me.” We took our home stuff to Hit where we rented a house. Sayd Ahmed had gone to Rumadi, then went back to Hit. We were under control there. Every day they would say, this Salih would say, “how did you dare say in the Arabs’ home that you won’t become Ba’athi, that you were Peshmarga for six years and for six years, you organized people. You should stay here for twelve years, Sayd Ahmed. There is an order for you.” When Salih reached me, I was not talking to him that much.


Sometimes I sit down and I say maybe people will say I was just this black-wearing old woman. I don’t praise myself but go and ask people to see how Sayd Ahmed’s family was compared to others. Now I’m left alone. We were eleven people in my family. In a single day in Qasre Khware, my husband and my son were killed. I screamed and I had a one-year-old daughter on my lap. She also startled and well she died, too. This one, too, I was pregnant with for three months.


You are like my son, see Sayd Ahmed and his son were killed in 1986 and this one’s birth is 1987 which is written on this ID. It took six months in between. It took six months until I gave birth to that daughter. September 11 is way far from January. You are like my son, she was born this long time after her father was killed. I raised her for almost twelve years. She was in the fourth grade at school. The day Erbil was seized again, she was killed. Bullets were fired from every corner. I said “let’s go inside the house”. My brother’s daughter-in-law said “everybody is going to the roof. I will fetch a mattress and roll it out on the roof.” She had performed ablution, ready to say her prayers and just before I was done, God is my witness, they fired sixty bullets at the house and she was killed and other people fled away. These were four people killed. And for the one who died on my lap, that was not killing.

Interviewer: It was. How old was she?


Sawsan: She was one year old. She was about to walk. Startled at my screams, sitting on my lap, she died after four days. I was still pregnant with the other one, you are like my son, she was killed later. She was in the fourth grade. They fired at Sayd Nadir and Sayd Ali’s houses. They had chosen these three houses and people say the shooters were not supporters of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, but they were PUK. The girl, my daughter, was killed and her brain and blood were under my feet. God bless him, Sayd Hamko, who raised her saying “she is not dead, she is looking at me.” I said, “how come uncle, don’t you see her blood and brain spattered under my feet and yours.” He ran out at once, taking her to Tahir’s house and closing the door behind him.


Again I had my heart in my mouth. For the morning when I woke up the roosters were screaming. People were crossing these hills on foot. They did not dare to come without fear. So, your aunt, has witnessed all these ups and downs since her childhood; without her father and mother, she was raised by her uncle and his wife. I went to the Arabs to gain something under my husband’s name and there they told us “you ran away and have taken loan.” I had 190 Dinar with me, which I had borrowed; they took all of it from me. I said “I’m mother to orphans and I hired a lawyer with 330 Dinar.” They said, “it’s not possible; you’ve taken the government’s money and run away.”


My husband told me to be free because I accompanied him in all situations.