First part

Gulala: I welcome you warmly. You’re most welcome.

Interviewer: Thanks so much.

Gulala: When we were children, we went to the mountains. We went to gather rhubarb and acanthus. We were dancing all the way until we were back home. They would not always let us go. On the other hand, my paternal uncle would ask me to just dance. I would come running and he would chase me, running and saying that I should dance. I was a kid, only just a teenager. I was little and my uncle was young. He would say he should take the hand of other people in the stamping and dancing row and I should also come to dance. I would always go.

That was a nice time; time for rhubarb, acanthus and kardy. We would dance until we were back. We would go happily, we would go for acanthus, for rhubarb and for kardy. If it was up to me, I would never sit at home. Often they would tell me “You will get tired” and similar things, I would answer, “I will go for collecting these plants and herbs.” I would say “You don’t interfere. I will go anyway.” Anyhow, they would say “Then, go. If you don’t get tired, go.” If I stayed at home one day, for the next day I would go anyway. Sometimes I would go every day. Then, we would bring back acanthus and kardy; we would be extremely happy. We would gather small branches of trees, would follow the cows, the goats, whatever.

Interviewer: You worked and loved to work!

Gulala: We worked while wearing ragged plastic shoes. We did not have shoes to wear like now. The clothes were loose, each side going this way and that way. There were not clothes to wear at that time. There was not money. There was poverty. We all worked, raising cows, goats. Well, I would look after goats, like shepherds; I would become a shepherd, too. We raised cows, goats and everything. I swear, I would go with my uncle to the goats to look after them. Often he would take me with him, saying “Your uncle’s dear, come on with me.” Even if I complained until the evening, he would say “Then, what will you be doing at home. I will collect wood and you look after the goats.” I did every work with my uncle. But my uncle was also nice to me; he was like a father. He was instead of my father.

The childhood was like that. I swear my family was so kind that they did not slap me even once. My father was dead. And because I underwent an arranged marriage for my uncle’s sake, he has not slapped me even once so far. He, this uncle of mine, is still alive. He would say “Your uncle’s dear, don’t go to the mountains, I’m telling you so for your own good.” Sometimes, like babies, I would press him; if I liked something, I would have him buy it for me at any cost, let it be shoes, clothing. He would buy me everything. While I was little, I underwent an arranged marriage for him. At that time, we would go everywhere, this way, that way. We would become tired, and bring tree branches, acanthus and kardy. We would go everywhere, I didn’t like to stay at home for a single day. And they would say “Your uncle’s dear, we are saying you should not go for your sake.” And I would say “I won’t be tired. I will go anyhow.”

Second Part

Gulala: They came; they came to ask for my hand. They had been coming for one year. We were both very young. Well, they postponed the marriage for one year and my uncles said “We will not give her to you.” Then, my father-in-law said “Well, you should give her to our son anyway.” Well, apparently my uncles said that they should buy me 19 ounces or, I don’t know how much, gold. My father-in-law said “We were attacked by airplanes, we are poor.’ My family said let it be like that. They bought me some gold, they came two to three times. Well, my uncle said “Come to take her.” Anyway, they came and at that time, it was poverty. We were both children. We didn’t know how to live in Garawan. Well, we settled down and anyway continued with life. I had a coddled life with my uncle and with my husband’s family. I would not spoil the reputation of my uncle, my relatives and my kinfolk when I was with them my husband’s family.

Interviewer: That’s right. It means before you got married, you were living with your uncle, your father was dead.

Gulala: Yah. I was with my uncle. And my uncle would say “I would not marry her off,” things like that. Then they all agreed and my husband’s family came. We were engaged when my father-in-law said “We will take her anyway.” Anyway, they took me, and I spent ten years with them. We had three children and we were still with them. He was still living with his father’s family; we were with the family of my father-in-law. Then, it was poverty. People bought rice in kilos, oil in kilos.

Interviewer: It means you did not have an independent home; you were with the family of your father-in-law.

Gulala: There was no independent home; we were inside the home of my father-in-law. When we came to Ruwanduz to start our independent life, my mother-in-law started crying, saying that my husband was leaving them and similar words. My husband said “Mum, I can no longer provide for two families.” Anyway, we had three little kids; we came to Ruwanduz with a bundle of bedding sets. We had three kids and we came to Ruwanduz on the back of a mule, with all our family members and stuff.

At that time, my husband would work for six dirham a day. This way we continued until the time he went after citizenship IDs. He was missing for twenty days. They intended to look for him but later they said he was dead, maybe he was hit by something. Anyway, he returned and got the citizenship IDs and it was over. And God showed His mercy. He was employed and worked for the settlement office for 18 dinars. His salary was 18 dinars. Anyway, after he worked there for a while, he got married to me. We had three children, six dinars for the children and two dinars for me, so eight dinars were added to his salary.

Interviewer: That means during all this time you were together he was not married to you officially?

Gulala: He was not. When we came to Ruwanduz, we had three kids, then we got married. My names were there, I mean here at the files of Ruwanduz ID office. Anyway, he got married officially and obtained salary and anyhow he worked for himself until he was employed, working for the settlement office. By that time, his salary became generous. We paid off our debts. Everything became easy for us.

Then we went to Garweraza and there we bought a plot of land; we built a house there. It was there; he bought a piece of land. I had my own gold and sold it. My uncle also gave me 60 dinars as heritage. Well, anyway we bought the land and built the house and became house owners; we became parents. We stayed there for a long time until the time came when they said they were taking people and creating militia and things like that. We left the house, fleeing to Garawan. Then, we stayed there for one year and when we came back here once again we fled; it was still like that mobilizing people. It was then our children were hit by an airplane airstrike.

Interviewer: How many of them?

Gulala: Qasim got injured. Our daughter was also just this size; she was also hit and died. She died right away. A fragment hit her at this point. At that time many people from Garawan were hit; then you were not born. You and Ranjbar, my other son, and others were not born. Anyway, my children were hit. My daughter died on the spot. My son was also injured. His father gave him blood. They took him my son to Erbil and he was in the hospital with him for forty days before he was returned. My husband gave two bottles of his blood, well, then Qasim did not die.

But the daughter died right away. A small fragment had gone through her brain. At that time also, bare-footed, we fled to Ruwanduz, leaving the doors and houses unlocked. The house was ruined. They said “No one remained alive in this house and allegedly my family were not alive anymore.” My uncle and relatives came to the house and later people said to my uncle and relatives, “Well, they went to Ruwanduz alive.” When we were back our daughter was dead. And Qasim was injured, taken to Erbil. They brought injured people with him back home. My uncles and cousins then came and brought back our home stuff for us. We had a house in Ruwanduz; they brought us our home stuff from the ruined house. They had the renter at our house in Ruwanduz evacuate the house. Qasim was accompanied by his father in Erbil. And for me, they brought me back my home stuff. Well, a month passed and I was turning crazy, as two of my children had been hit and this happened during Ramadan. At that time, we came back to Ruwanduz for good and did not return to Garawan anymore. When these two children of mine were hit by the airplane, I said to myself, “Even if they kill me, I will not return to Garawan anymore.” Anyway, at the time two to three children from our neighbourhood were killed, one from the Maryam family, one from our family and one from the Sufi Kamal family. They were all hit, returning to Garawan was over.

Interviewer: At that time, was it all the Iraqi government responsible for this?

Gulala: Yah. Back then it was. Someone from the upper village was also hit. He, Uncle Ismail, lost his leg. My daughter was also hit together with them. Our daughter had grown up; she was this tall; she did every work. I’m not sure at what grade Qasim was. These two children of mine were hit. I myself fell under the house debris and all went dark in front of my eyes. I swear to God, since then and even now I am feeling woozy; I became like deaf and lightheaded people. Sanya called “Mum, come on, get out, Mum, come on.” I said “My daughter, the door is locked on me.” With the airstrike the doors were locked on us. The children remained outside. Dilshad my other son was not there or he would also have been hit. He had gone to the pond. The ones from our family, only Qasim was hit, the daughter also died on the spot. Khanm was with her father on the farm. It was me and Sanya. Sanya and I came to Ruwanduz barefooted. They kept the dead body of my daughter for us. When her father came back, he faced the dead body. He carried her in his arms. A jeep came and in the jeep they went to Ruwanduz. We took the dead daughter to Diyana. They moved her around and then we buried her in Ruwanduz. They brought us our home stuff back. It was like that. Anyway, we did not go back to Garawan anymore.

Interviewer: And for education, are you literate?

Gulala: For education, they kept coming to the houses, saying housewives should have schooling. And I went to study for one year. I went for one year but my mind was not with studying because of my children. One was in the cradle and I would take the other with me to school. I took Dilshad with me. Once he got a fissure accidently and I said I would not come anymore. Well, they sent me a letter to the house, saying you should come anyway, saying that I was smart and things like that; threatening that I should not quit or they would imprison my husband. They kept playing me. Well, I went back to school for a while then they let me be. I went to school for two years. I would take a child with me, taking his hand, and would leave another at home. They were very young, neither Sanya nor Khanm were of that age to take care of the little one and themselves. I would say to myself if they burnt themselves, if they burnt the house, at the same time the school officials did not let me be. Well, I finally did not go. I completed two years and did not go anymore.

Interviewer: Now you can read and write?

Gulala: No, not really. I may hardly know anything about reading and writing.

Interviewer: You’ve forgotten?

Gulala: I’ve forgotten. At that time I knew. The female teachers would say that I should not leave, that I was smart and things like that. And now my age has exceeded the age for education. How I should remember reading and writing?

Interviewer: Then how was life in Ruwanduz?

Gulala: In Ruwanduz also our life was good. My husband was fine as he got salary and besides he worked elsewhere apart from working in the public sector. He would do the mud work for the houses; he would do any work. But he got employed in the work of the settlement office and obtained a fine salary. After obtaining this salary, he became a Peshmarga thus we got two salaries. Then they cut their salary, the pension. We had a prosperous life in Ruwanduz. Then it became like this. Right at the time we were trying to reinforce our grip, when we had our life and family organized, this happened. They robbed us, my son was arrested and my husband was martyred.

Interviewer: And after his martyrdom what happened?

Gulala: After his martyrdom we still stayed in Ruwanduz and didn’t go anywhere. We did not move anywhere; we were in Ruwanduz. When he was martyred, the children were young, very young.

Third Part

Gulala: When he was martyred, he was heading to work, saying “I’m off to work.” Three times he returned and said goodbye. He told me “Send me my bedding set.” And I said to myself he did not always say goodbye but this time he returned three times and said goodbye. He said “Send my bedding with Burham.” And I said ok. Well, he was off to work. Three days passed. In the morning I had the samovar turned on. Burham came. He said “You and Dilshad come out.” And I asked why; I asked what was happening. I became silent, saying “What’s wrong, Burham?” He said “It’s nothing important.” He said “Come with me, your husband, is slightly injured but he will be fine. It’s nothing serious. We have pulled the bullet of this size out of his wound.” Well, I was about to scream but he said “Don’t make any noise. He had become well; he is fine. Don’t make any noise.”

Well, Dilshad and I were confused. Dilshad was nearly of that age. He accompanied me. We ran. When we got there, they had done a surgery for him. His stomach had risen this high. He said “Don’t worry. I’m fine.” He said “My son, don’t worry. I’m fine.” He told me “Gulala, go home, go home for the children. I’m fine.”

Well, I came back. The next day I went back and stayed with him until the evening. He told me “Go for the sake of the children. I’m very fine.” Dilshad and Qasim were with him. The next day at 12 o’clock they gave him nine bottles of blood, transfusion of the tenth one failed. He said “Go back home because tomorrow they will take me home on my own foot.” I said “In sha’a Allah.” He said “But you go home for the children.” And I went back.

Well, at 12 o’clock he passed away. They had brought him to our maternal uncle’s home until the morning, anyway, he was martyred. Three of my children were orphans, Qaraman and Barwar and Ranjbar. And when the life became so, we had 12 to 15 thousand dinar debts. We had Dilshad married just recently. His wedding was over. We were indebted by 15 thousand dinar. So, people would say “How can they continue life? How can these children be raised? What can she can do with them?” And we had 500 dinar as salary, thanks to God.

We were poor, we were extremely poor. Later, God provided for us and I managed the kids and raised them. At any rate, I did not abandon my children. Until it was so, I kept being kind to my children. They kept weeping for two years; they were little, saying “Why is our dad not coming back.” When they saw other people’s fathers coming back from the mosque, they would cuddle the tombstone of their father and I could hardly drag them away. Then, anyway, thanks to God, my family were content with this 500 dinar. I raised them with it. Qasim sold stuff on a pushcart in the street. It was only six months after Dilshad got married. We had him get married when he was 20 years old. We had married off one daughter. The others, neither the girls nor the boys were married. After that, they all got married and got their own life, and thanks to God we paid off the debts. We had some goats and by selling them we paid back the debts and with that money, too I had my sons get married. So, I raised them this way, with poverty, with deprivation; we were very poor.

Interviewer: That’s right. It seems very difficult.

Gulala: Well, I faced such a trouble raising my children. They gave us zakat-al-fitr which is the charity given to poor people at the end of Ramadan because we were so poor when this happened to us. Anyway, there was also no one to help. I had no brothers myself. My uncle was not that rich. Also my children’s uncle had moved to Raniya. Anyway, I didn’t abandon my children for anyone. I raised them, thanks to God, only three were orphans. They were young. I said we would re-establish the home, this meant that clergy would come and cleanse it so we could receive guests again. Mala Faqir said “Two of your sons are grown up. Don’t re-establish the home because you are still left with an underage son.” Ranjbar my son, before anyone else, said “I’ll forgive everyone. We feel sorry for ourselves if people don’t visit us. We don’t have guests.” Anyway, our food became Halal and the kids no longer asked for their father. Like old days our home was the same home; we had guests and received them. Whoever would come, he would come to visit us too; I swear our home was never empty like now. For one month the funeral continued. But my husband’s brothers were not here, our relatives were not here, only us.

Then, Ranjbar was the youngest of all. When he went to visit his father before he had died, his father opened his arms and said “Ranjbar, then you came.” He kissed Ranjbar and wept for Ranjbar. He said “My son, I will get well. Don’t worry.” Ranjbar was the youngest of all. Dilshad and Qasim were with my husband; one had gone to bring water and the other was standing by his side, saying “Dad stopped breathing. He died at once.” They brought us the dead body. Anyway, he died in a deprived state. When he was alive security agents would check the house, asking “What do you have?” And my husband took arms, fearing his life; everyday they would come, searching the house but could not find anything. Our children were young, that’s why he took arms, because his brothers were away, the agents came everyday to search his house. Anyway, this was the way we lived. After him, I swear, I suffered by raising these children. 500 dinar was not enough for anything. We were also indebted too much. Well, we paid off the debts and now our life is the happiest of all families, thanks to God.