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"Coyote" Part 14 'Going south'
From the Author
Welcome back folks, glad you could join us in the journey.
When I started this series I didn't actually intend to write it, I was just so angry and frustrated at some of the things that were coming out in the Western press about refugees and migrants, how they're 'a drain' on western cultures and all that crap, so I decided to write the story of a friend of mine, a guy I knew for a while in Iraq and how they came to the west.
So far, all we've done really is paint the picture of what it was like, and how good a mechanic 'Samir' really was, but now, we're getting to the nitty gritty, how everything 'turned to custard' and they had nowhere to run!
Join us on the journey, but be prepared for a 'bumpy ride' as I'll warn you, it'll leave you highly unimpressed with some people who should be looking to care for the fatherless, and the orphan.
The sun was low in the eastern sky when he got into work, there was still a slight chill from the night before, evidence the summer was fading into autumn, and winter would soon be here.
Tariq and Luka were waiting for him, rather they arrived just as he did, they had Op Mercy's big LandCruiser, and from the look of it, they were loaded for a trip.
“Morning Samir” Tariq called as they climbed out of the vehicle, “on our way down to Erbil, thought we'd call in and see if you wanted anything”
“Mr Tariq” Samir smiled, “what would I want from there?”
“News maybe?” It was Luka who replied, “you still have family in Kirkuk?”
He unlocked the padlock on the door, a decent quality Chubb lock, reaching down for the handle, he tugged at the door, it began rolling up. “No, my family are all gone, there's only my brother left, and he's in Australia” he turned and faced them, “he's got Australian citizenship, if ever we get out of Iraq, he said he would sponsor us to Australia, but we need to get to England first!”
They'd heard Samir tell the story before, but it was impolite to stop him. “We have money, lots of it in a bank account in England, it got frozen before 'Desert storm’ because it might be 'Saddam's’” he spat the words our, contempt evident in every syllable. “Just an excuse for legal theft!*
“We’ll be gone about a week” Tariq called as they climbed back into the vehicle.
“And I'll bring back any news from the old neighbourhood” Luka called as he started the engine, “see you then”
Here's the story.
- NO POT OF GOLD FOUND IN HUNT FOR IRAQI ASSETS - The Washington Post
They never did find the link, and a lot of Banks used it so they could use the money with impunity without ever having to pay the interest it earned to it's original owners!
Erbil, ancient city of the Medes
“Samir” the voice was Azeem’s, and it sounded agitated, “did you see Tariq and Luka this morning?”
“Yeah” he replied slowly as he finished tightening the cambelt, “give me a minute, what's this about?”
“Never mind the minute?” Azeem demanded, “when did they leave, they were going to Erbil, did they say if they were stopping on the way?”
“Not really!” Samir replied straightening up, the job done, he turned in Azeem's direction, there was someone else in the Land Rover, it looked like Miss Jean, the nurse in charge, he went to the basin, took some grease remover, smothered his hands, then washed them with soap and water before taking up a cloth rag and wiping them dry, he asked “Why?”
Azeem had tears in his eyes, that was really strange, and it had Samir worried. “You can't have heard the news yet” Azeem replied, “it hasn't got through locally yet” he wiped the tear away.
Samir grabbed the man by the shoulders, both hands, and began to shake him, gently at first, “What news?”
“I think you need to come with me” Azeem shouted as he turned back towards the vehicle, “we need to get to the UN people, maybe they can help” he opened the door and started to climb in.
“Help with what?” Samir demanded following him, “Azeem, what are you on about?” he was getting frustrated, and worried, Azeem clearly had some news, and from the way he was behaving, it wasn't good!
Miss Jean, Op Mercy's team leader was in the backseat, an eastern custom, “Samir” she began, “ we just heard on both CNN and the BBC, Saddam Hussein has attacked Erbil, his troops have taken the city”
Saddam takes Erbil
Word gets out
“I'm so looking forward to this” Luka was wearing the biggest smile, the full but well trimmed beard emphasising it. “Mr Tariq, it's been three years since I last saw my family, I finally found out they're alive, and my sister, she got a letter to me” he was ecstatic.
“Luka, eyes on the road bro” Tariq was happy for him, but the last thing they needed was to end up in a ditch. “That way we'll make it in one piece”
It's two hundred and fifty kilometres from Zakho to Erbil, about a hundred and fifty miles, about three or four hours on good roads, these weren't good roads, but they were the kind you shouldn't even attempt the trip in anything but a four by four, plan at least eight hours driving, and expect to either smash the axle, or wreck the suspension if you go too fast, that is if you get round the hairpin bends on the cliff faces, the kind of terrain that stops empires.
“This radio’s playing up” Tariq reached for the handset they had on the dashboard, a Motorola VHF, he'd flicked to the channel they used in Dohuk, but all they were getting was static. “Not that we can expect a call” he chanced a glance over at Luka, “I told Jean we'd be nine days, back next Saturday”
“Saturday?” Luka asked, “I thought she’d said Friday?”
“She did” he replied, “and I told her there’s no way we’re travelling the route of a Friday when there’s no one around if we need help!”
The route from Zakho to Erbil was a dangerous one, there was still a million dinar bounty on the heads of any aid workers in Iraq, one Saddam would be happy to pay, and Tariq had been stuck on the road before, it wasn’t something he wanted to repeat.
They were coming up to the final checkpoint on the edge of Dohuk, just before the mountains started and the most enjoyable, but most hair raising part of the drive began, the checkpoints were all manned, but most of the time the Kurds just smiled and waved as they drove through, they only even drew the barriers down if there was trouble up ahead, this one had the barrier down.
“Wonder what the problem is?” Luka said to no one in particular, they’d been speaking in English, but switched to Kurdish as soon as the started to slow down, some of the peshmerga could even lipread, and it just felt natural to switch.
“No idea” Tariq replied and wound his window down, one of the peshmerga was stood right besides his window, “Salaam aleykum brother, what’s the problem?” he asked in Kurdish.
“You have to turn back” was the reply, the man looked almost apologetic, they hated to stop the foreigners, they were here to help people, and the peshmerga respected that, they hated to have to stop them from doing it, “There’s fighting ahead”
“What? Not again?” Tariq sounded almost as if he was complaining, there had been fighting between the two main tribes, off and on for almost two years, but they always stopped the fighting whenever a UN vehicle was passing through, he’d even driven through a couple of artillery emplacements once that was shelling a village, as soon as they realized he’d wanted to go to that village they stopped, and only started again when they knew he’d left!
“No, not the tribes” the soldier replied, “we just got news, Saddam has taken Erbil, and might be advancing further in.”
It was then they noticed the four Chevy pickups with heavy duty machine guns mounted on the back, they were about a hundred yards off to the left, partially concealed by the terrain, alongside them were a couple of dozen peshmerga, all getting ready for a fight.
“We only got the message fifteen minutes ago” the soldier said, “when those men arrived” he pointed to the Chevys, “we have orders to stop all traffic, didn’t the UN call you?” he pointed to the radio.
“Not working as well as it should” Tariq replied, “when did this happen?”
“This morning, from what we heard, he overran Erbil within an hour, there are hundreds being murdered even now, but we’ll defend to the last man if we have to!”
Love a great story? try this one
Saying 'Bye' for now
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That checkpoint was the last one before we reached Erbil, I still shudder to think what might have happened, fifteen minutes earlier and we'd have gone through straight into a huge firefight, but while that would have been bad, just wait until the west retaliates!
Saddam hadn't technically broken the rules, he hadn't crossed into the 'safe haven' but would the west go to the help of the Kurds?
That we'll look at next week.