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Archive for April, 2010

Salih, Amina, and their son Shabban...the members of the Bigdowdi's that were killed.

My husband, Meran comes from a tragic past involving the murder of his parents and brother all in one day in the village of Ekmole, Iraq that is along the Turkish border.  They were amongst many killed that day and other days before in what would be later known as the Anfal Campaigns…it was Saddam’s attempt to crush the Kurds once and for all.  It didn’t work, however the effects of those lost is still felt till today.

Here is Meran Abdullah’s story…

At the time of the attack our family-My father, mother, 3 sisters, and myself-had been forced to relocate from our home village of Bigdowdi due to Saddam’s army coming to our village and destroying our homes several times. First we went to Bersive for seven or so years. Then our situation became difficult again and we had to find somewhere else to live. We then moved to Ekmole around 1986.

In March of 1988 the infamous Chemical attack on Halabja occurred to the south of us. In that attack many Kurds were the victims of chemical attacks. Due to this attack and having information from others we were anticipating having to run if we had to.

Several days before the attack on my village my older brother Shabban came home to visit. He told us rumors of Saddam’s army moving north and attacking Kurdish villages. We didn’t know what to do at that time so we stayed there. After a couple days everyone in our village and the surrounding villages heard that Saddam’s army was closing in and everyone decided to try and cross into Turkey to seek refuge. The night before the attack on our village my family decided to run across the mountains and try and cross the border. We had to do this at night in order to try and not get detected. One major obstacle on the way was a major road between two mountains. Once you crossed the road the other mountains and beyond were under Kurdish control but the Army frequently patrolled this area and it was dangerous to cross. In order to help people, the Kurdish rebels would signal people if it was clear to cross or not. That night there were thousands of us on the backside of the mountain. We waited for a signal but when we finally heard word it was only to tell us that the Army was blocking the road further up and it was too dangerous to cross. We also could not stay on the mountain because when daylight came the planes would be able to spot us. We were forced to turn around and go home and try again the next day.

Shortly after we returned home,my uncle-Mossa Mossa and his friend Tahsin Ayyub arrived at our house. They were working with the Kurdish resistance and were returning with food supplies for our family. Earlier that night they had been on the opposite side of the road in the Kurdish controlled area. They had crossed the road with no problem and had made it back to our village. Apparently there had been some miscommunication and there was no road block. They had hurried to come fetch us and get us to the border because of the rumors of what was about to happen. When they had heard what happened to us that night they were upset. But because we had gone and come back we were all exhausted and we decided to rest and start bright and early.

In the morning we woke up early before sunrise. We ate breakfast and made ourselves ready to go. My uncles and their friend, my siblings and I all decided to go on ahead. My parents and oldest brother stayed behind in order to gather a few supplies and to get our id’s that we would need in order to cross the border. We had not gotten that far from our house when we heard the planes. We had many experience with planes flying over our villages, shooting our livestock, and threatening us. Our first instinct was to run for cover in bushes or wherever we could find. At one point we heard two loud bang sounds, it sounded like someone dropping a barrel of flour, bomm shhhhh, with smoke. We ran for cover in an underground tunnel my neighbor had constructed. We had been in there for a few minutes when we started to smell something. My uncles who were in the resistance immediately recognized what this was… a chemical attack. They urged us to leave the area immediately and to wet some cloths and put over our mouths. There were two exits to the tunnels and I immediately went for the one that came up by my house in order to warn my parents and brother of the danger. But as I turned that way I was pulled by my older sister the other way and told to go and that she would warn them. I remember yelling to my parents and brother, “Bob, Da, Chemia hovit ( Mom, Dad, they have dropped chemical weapons)”. My sister and uncle echoed my yells but did not let us linger. They rushed us outside and to the creek so we could wet some cloths to cover our mouths. We rushed across the creek and up into the mountains and were trying to reach a cave for safety until the chemical had a chance to be swept away by the winds. There was no time then to try and get my parents or wait. Our lives were in immediate danger and we had to escape if we could. That was one of the hardest times I remember in my life; knowing my family is in danger and having to save myself or maybe die with them.

My uncle Suphi, his wife, children and our grandmother had come from the other part of the village and met us at the cave. Afterwards we waited for about a half hour in the cave and still my parents and brother had not come. Mossa, my uncle, and Tahsin his friend decided to go look for them. They came back a couple hours later but had not found them. They discussed what they should do with my other uncles and where they should look for my parents. They thought that they may not have followed our route but taken another one. So my uncles Suphi and Mossa went this time, along with their friend Tahsin to look for my parents and my brother. I couldn’t handle not knowing what had happened to them so I demanded that I come along. It wasn’t safe all the way yet, especially for a kid, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. At first we still couldn’t find anything either. But evidence of what had happened was all around: birds carpeted the ground under trees dead; our livestock that hadn’t been able to flee was lying on the ground dead, death permeated the air. After about 45 minutes or so we decided to follow the path that we took from our house up the mountain and backtrack. It was here, along the bank of the creek that we first found my mother. And across the creek we found my brother with my father lying beside him. It appeared that my mother had been better off and had tried to go as far as she could. But I think my father must have gotten too weak because it seemed like my brother had been carrying him on his back. In the end they were all three overwhelmed to the point they no longer had the strength to flee. By the time we reached them it was too late.

Even in that moment where my grief was so much I had to hold it together and be strong. If I returned like this my sisters would know what this meant and they would not be able to handle it. They would be so stricken with grief that they would not be able to move ahead. And we were still not out of danger. Saddam’s army could return by foot or air at any moment looking for survivors. So I pulled myself together for their sake, even though my heart ached with an overwhelming grief that almost made it hard to breathe.

Other peshmergas, Kurdish resitance soldiers, had returned to the valley as well and were helping with taking the bodies to the graveyard. As my uncles and Tahsin and I all returned to the cave, the peshmergas took our parents and brothers bodies to the graveyard. When we returned to my family in the cave we told them that we had found my parents and brother and they would meet us at the other end of our village by the graveyard. We had to make them believe there was hope even though there wasn’t in order to get them to move forward. So all of us left the cave and traveled to the end of the village by the graveyard. Only then, with the bodies giving silent witness, did we reveal what really happened and where we had found them.

We quickly buried them and moved on. We forced our bodies to push on thru sheer will. We knew that staying here in our grief was not an option. We hiked over mountains and dangerous trails for over four hours. Not too soon after we began to feel the effects of our exposure to the chemical weapons. We suffered from: Red, teary eyes; swollen, burning nasal passages; dry throats; and severe nausea and vomiting. Our symptoms varied in severity depending on our exposure and sensitivity. And they lasted with some of us for over 10 days. To this day some of us still suffer from after effects of that exposure.

Eventually we ended up in a village on the border, Oraya. There we were fed and were able to rest. Thousands of other villagers from villages all across the north also gathered there. We all were intending on fleeing into Turkey to seek refuge. We stayed there the night and intended to cross in the morning.

Eventually Turkey let us in, but it was not without difficulty. Probably international pressure was a major factor in Turkey even putting up with the amount of Kurdish refugees fleeing Iraq. We were put into refugee camps in different cities of Turkey, ours was in Mardin. We stayed there in tents, an infrequent supply or food and other necessities, and harsh conditions for over four years. We eventually were sponsored to come to America where we arrived in September of 1992.

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Shaan Meran Abdullah November 28, 2006

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar LA ILAHA ILLLLLLLL ALLAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Had you been in another place, if you hadn’t heard how those words were said, with such determination, you might have thought you were at an Eid celebration. But this was me, doing what my best friend calls my “birthing mantra” in the heat of Labor. And concentrating on these words is the only thing I focus on till that baby is born.

Shaan, my fourth son, was born this way.

The morning of my induction I went with my best friend to the hospital while my husband took our other three sons off to school and later joined us there. If things went well, I would have the baby by the time the boys got out of school and we wouldn’t have to worry about finding somewhere for the boys to go.

Things started off fine. Then all of a sudden I got a really bad contraction that wouldn’t stop and my stomach tightened up and wouldn’t stop. At the same time the nurse rushed in and said that the babies heart rate had dropped dramatically. She urged me to my side, then the other, and lastly on all fours on the bed. Finally, after a momentary scare, the baby’s heart rate normalized. But I was this close to having my first c-section. The nurse later joked that the baby must have grabbed his umbilical cord and made himself dizzy for a sec. Shame on you baby, you scared momma!

Soon after my doctor arrived and broke my water. My labor, like my previous one started to go really full throttle. And my friend and I warned them if I got to 6, make ready cause it wouldn’t be long afterward.

With my third son I went from like 7 to 10 cm in a half hour and the baby ended up flying out into the nurses arms. Out like a football, my friend tells my son when she retells his story. He always smiles at this point.

Most of my labor I have a “Birthing Nasheed” playing that I burned with my favorite nasheeds that have Allahu Akbar, or Bismillah or something along those lines in them. I sing along with the songs in the beginning. And my nurse remarks at one point how beautiful they are, “I might even convert to Islam,” she says with a grin. Towards the end I go into my full “birthing mantra” and swing back and forth. Somehow making myself dizzy helps get thru each intense contraction.

As it gets real intense, I know I am getting close. And soon I feel the urge to push. I am eager for this, because once you get to start pushing you no longer have to fight your contractions. I am checked at this point, which is probably my least favorite one cause you are in such pain and the last thing you want to do is lay down while someone checks you. I am 9 with a lip, not there yet, so I have to endure a couple more excruciating contractions.

Finally my doctor tells me its ok, even with the lip, push and follow my urge the next contraction. She didn’t need to ask me twice. I bear down and with one or two pushes, the baby’s head is out! She tells me to stop to suction and then all the baby is out. My legs are shaking and I am cold. But I am relieved. And as they lay my baby on my chest. I can’t stop saying “Alhamdulillah” over and over again. The pain I went thru is but a faint memory as I look into the eyes of this miracle Allah has just given me.

After a while under the heating lamps, my son is wrapped in a blanket and given to his dad. He bends down over the baby and whispers the words of the Adthan into his ears,“Allahu Akbar, AllahuAkbar…”

This is one of the hardest things I have done in my life, but with the help of Allah I made it thru.

Indeed, Allah is Great!

***I submitted this as part of the MUM LOVES ME birth story contest…while I didn’t win…they said they will post all of our submissions on their site.

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