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Mine victims in Iraq: Fakhradin's story

25-09-2007 Feature

Fakhradin Najim Hawez lives in Erbil, northern Iraq. After fleeing from his home during the conflict of 1991, he reached safety – but was later maimed by a landmine when returning from a trip home to see his parents. More trouble was yet to come…


  ©ICRC / iq-e-00614    
At the ICRC's orthopaedic centre in Erbil    
    I fled from my home in 1991, after the uprising, with many other families running away from the Iraqi Army. I took the road to Iran and went to a border area called Sardasht, which is also inhabited by Kurds.
In 1994 I decided to return alone to Erbil to see my parents, as I missed them a lot. I was forced to take a smugglers road, as we were not allowed to cross the border. When we were returning t o Iran, and on the Iranian side of the border, we had to pass an army checkpoint.
It was at night and, because it was dark and the track was very narrow, we could not see clearly. A mine exploded under me. My left leg was shattered; my two companions ran away as the soldiers at the checkpoint started to shoot at us. The shooting stopped after half an hour, then I called my friends and they came back to help me. They bandaged my leg using their traditional Kurdish cloth belt, put me on the back of one of their mules, and took me back across the Iraqi border.
We travelled about an hour through the mountains and then two hours by car till we reached the hospital in Rania, near Sulaimania. There was a foreign surgeon working there and he operated on me.
On the second day, they transferred me to Erbil. I was unconscious, as I had lost a lot of blood. I stayed at the hospital for 20 days and after my wounds had healed I went to the ICRC orthopaedic centre in Erbil to get an artificial limb made. This was in June 1999.
Later I bought a car and was working as a taxi driver, travelling between Erbil and Sulaimania, till one day in 2006 I had an accident: I was injured in my back and became paralyzed on my right side.
Now I can walk with the help of a metal appliance that supports my whole leg, which I had made in Iran as it is not available here. This has limited my life a lot.