"I thank God I am good now. I'm feeling peace."

We were living in a small village. I was in 6th grade going to school. I had friends. We played football, we went to many classes. Life was good. Life was comfortable. We never thought there would be dangers to our life. We never heard about ISIS or terrorists.

We heard that they went to Mosul and they might come to Shingal. So, my dad went to the checkpoint to find out from what side they would be coming. He stayed all night there. That night they heard that ISIS was coming, so everyone ran away to Shingal mountain.

The mountain was near to us. Anybody who didn’t have a car just had to run away to the mountains. We are such a big family, I can’t even count. We all had two cars. So, someone in my family took some of us to the mountains and came back to take more. I was just a kid, so I didn’t know what was going on. I just ran away to this mountain with my family.

We heard a lot of stories from people who fled from the other side. ISIS was killing many people. They even attacked kids and women. We heard many things.

That night we stayed in the mountains. We didn’t have anything. It was so cold without blankets. It was like I was in a dream. I didn’t know what was happening.  We were so afraid. When I woke up, there were more families there- like 1,000 people on this mountain.

At 10 am someone said ISIS cars were coming. When we saw ISIS was coming, all of us ran away. Like a wolf coming for the sheep. We fled the mountain and ran away. Some [Kurdish military men] were on this mountain protecting people. So, when ISIS came, they started to attack those cars and they killed all these ISIS men. Only the driver ran away.

There was a road from the mountain my family followed to go to Syria. Then the ISIS car from before passed beside us and was in front of us. We heard some shooting from this car. We were so afraid. There was a small hole near this road; we went to this hole to protect ourselves. We stayed in this place, we did not move, and after a while this car went. We didn’t know what happened to this car.

After this we started to walk. The weather was so hot. We didn’t have a lot of water- only a small bottle. And we were such a big family. Everybody would just put some water on their lips. My grandmother was sick. She said, ‘I can’t walk anymore.’ So, we sat down on the road for my grandmother to rest.

But then there were 5 ISIS cars in front of us. We didn’t know if the cars saw us or not. We were so afraid we could not move. We hid in another hole for about 45 minutes. After a while, those cars left.

We arrived in a village, there was a small tank of water. But this water was not clean. It was so dirty. There were even animals in the water. But we didn’t have a choice, so we drank and cleaned our self with this water. And there was a watermelon, so we ate. We were in the shade of a tree resting.

My grandmother said ‘I can’t walk anymore I can’t do this again.’ We didn’t know what to do. My father said we can carry you, but she said no. My uncle said ‘I’m going to stay with her.’

[She] was so afraid her son would be killed by ISIS, so she decided to go again to go back to Shingal mountain. We heard if anybody comes back, ISIS will not do anything. So, my family, we went on to Syria and my grandmother and uncle went back.

On the way to Syria […], my younger brother was scared; he couldn’t stand anymore. Sometimes he would faint because he was so tired from walking. Sometimes I held him, sometimes my father. My brothers and sisters were so young, but we just kept walking. It was a long way.

After arriving in Syria, Kuvan and his family learned it was not safe there either, so they made their way back to Kurdistan, Iraq.

I was in a tent; I was always in a bad mood. I was thinking ‘This is our life. Look at the people- how we’re living. Look at the other people- they have things I don’t have. We are going to live in this tent forever.’ It was so difficult. Before I came to the GROW program, my thoughts were in the wrong places. I was thinking in a different way. I was confused about life.  

Tutapona helps me to make strong thoughts about my life. Sure, there are some people that are better [off] than me, but I am good too. So many people have psychological problems and need these groups. 

I have only strong thoughts and good thoughts about my life. After I came to GROW, I feel full of peace. I trust myself more. I have a belief in God more. I’m feeling more comfortable and better.

Now, I know what to do. I’m depending on myself. I made goals for myself and I’m trying to reach my goals. I have one goal to finish school and go to college and go to work. Even if I don’t get into the college I want, I will go to a different medicine school to be a nurse.

I share my story because I want people to know what the people in Shingal saw and that people suffered. I want people to know what ISIS did to our people there. All the people suffered there and the mental health was so bad.

Thank you for this program. This program is useful for peoples’ mental health. I thank God I’m good now. I’m feeling peace.


*Name has been changed to protect the individual and his family

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