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"Coyote" part 4
He got back into town late, it was already late afternoon as he crossed the border, the guards on the Turkish side had kept him a while longer than he'd hoped, one of them being a real pain in the proverbial, the others had hung back laughing, eventually Tariq had enough
“What is his problem?” He'd quietly asked one of the others, when Mr 'pain in the butt’ wasn't within hearing distance.
“You watch the game last night?” One of the other border guards asked laughing, “he's not happy, 'cos you're from Manchester!”
“But that was Galatasaray!” Tariq protested, “in Istanbul!”
“Yep,” one of them replied, thoroughly enjoying himself, “Mehmet’s from there, it's his team as well, you're from Manchester, Manchester United best them seven nil! He wants revenge!” The others burst out laughing at that.
“Typical” Tariq couldn't help replying. “First time in months I come through, and I get the only guard who's a soccer fan!” He was smiling as he said it, even Mehmet was 'lightening up’.
“Go on,” Mehmet finally stood back from the back of the LandCruiser where he'd been checking every bag, “get out of here, before I change my mind” he swung the back door closed, “and don't say anything about the score, or I'll never hear the end of it!”
The drive from the crossing at 'Ibrahim Khalil’ to Zakho isn't far, about fifteen kilometres, or nine miles, but the difference between the two towns either side of the crossing couldn't be bigger!
On the one side, you had electricity, running water, good roads and some degree of civilization, but at a price. On the other, the electricity had been gone two years, water came every three days, that is if you had either a generator to pump it, or could pay for the water tanker, as for roads, you're going to need a four by four, but there was freedom to speak Kurdish, in Turkey it was illegal, speaking it could get you jail time!
Talk about intimidation! Turks love their sport!
United played Galatasaray and won, but the morning on the game they had police raid the hotel for 'passport checks' at 2am!!
One famous Soccer manager once said "Football isn't life and death, it's more important!"
Back 'Home' in Zakho
“Mr Tariq” a voice called out from inside the guard hut, “come sit with us, drink tea,” Ramazan, one of the guards on the house made the offer, he and the other guard, a slightly older and much more 'round’ character who had the nickname 'Haji’ were sitting outside watching the street.
“Thank you Ramazan, Haji” he remembered to acknowledge both of the 'lovable rascals’ as he thought of them, “but it's been a long day, I think I need some rest!”
“But mr Tariq” Ramazan sounded urgent, “Please , come, sit and drink tea with us”
Something wasn’t quite right, it wasn’t that the guards weren’t hospitable, these were two of the most generous in many ways, they virtually had nothing, except the AK47s they were carrying (and even they were borrowed, so that they could get work!) but they didn’t normally try to hold him up like this.
“Okay” he replied, they were speaking Arabic to him, ignoring his attempts to talk with them in Kurdish, not being rude, they just knew Tariq might be an Englishman, but he spoke really good Arabic, not quite like a native, and he spoke it with an Egyptian accent, they found that amazing, “But what’s this about?”
Haji poured the tea, three small glasses of the ‘copper nectar’, he put four spoons of sugar into the tiny glasses he and Ramazan had, but only one in Tariq’s glass, he hadn’t quite got the ‘sweet tooth’ most of the people in this area of the world had. “It’s Mrs Pauline” he began, “They had visitors.”
That wasn’t unusual, being almost at the border, Op Mercy acted as a bit of a ‘rest stop’ for people arriving and leaving the country, especially the foreigners coming in working on the aid programs.
“So I’ve got some people staying then have I?” Tariq was curious, Pauline and James had people staying all the time, but it was the first time they’d put one in one of the other houses, but then again maybe it was just a bunch of guys ‘passing through’ like he’d done on his ‘reccie trip’ with a mate a couple of years before.
“Sort of” Haji began.
“They’re really poor” Ramazan butted in, “You have to help them!”
“Well, I better go meet them” Tariq finished his tea and started to stand.
Ramazan grabbed one arm while Haji grabbed the other. “No, you can’t go in yet” they both demanded, sit and drink more tea with us.
“Why not?” he was mystified.
“Because it’s a family” Ramazan began, “an Iraqi family that got thrown back over the border a few days ago, they have nothing, you have to help them, please let them stay!”
“I take it the husband isn’t here at the moment is he?” Tariq wasn’t sure what to expect with the answer, was he having to move into the guard house?
In March and early April, nearly two million Iraqis, 1.5 million of them Kurds, escaped from strife-torn cities to the mountains along the northern borders, into the southern marshes, and to Turkey and Iran. By April 6, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) estimated that about 750,000 Iraqi Kurds had fled to Iran and 280,000 to Turkey, with 300,000 more gathered at the Turkish border. Their exodus was sudden and chaotic with thousands of desperate refugees fleeing on— Wikipedia
Their exodus was sudden and chaotic with thousands of desperate refugees fleeing on foot, on donkeys, or crammed onto open-backed trucks and tractors. Many were gunned down by Republican Guard helicopters, which deliberately strafed columns of fleeing civilians in a number of incidents in both the north and south.— Wikipedia
"What's this about?"
Since Operation Desert Storm the Kurds had (at the behest of the west) risen up and thrown Saddam out of the North of the country, only to have him come back with such a vengeance that over a hundred thousand people had lost their lives to his brutality, the carnage had been so bad that the presee had finally shamed the west into acting and creating a ‘safe haven’ for the Kurds and anyone who opposed him, except it wasn’t safe!
Beautiful, but lawless, was the best way to describe things, a place where everything was destroyed, villages, towns even cities had suffered.
The UN were called on to act and wanted to help rebuild, but along with the devastation he’d also put a price on the head of any foreigner killed in Iraq, a $25,000 bounty.
With 90% of people without work, and no way to feed their families, that was an attractive offer, so the UN had advised that all NGOs working in the area have armed guards at all times!
Truth was Haji and Ramazan were just two poor guys who found work, and while what Op Mercy paid them wasn’t much (about $50 US a month) it was enough to feed their entire extended families, for that they were grateful, and would die before they’d let anything bad happen to these foreigners.
“No he’s not” Ramazan replied, “but he’ll be home soon, then you can talk with him, we sent Khalid to get him!”
Samir and Tariq
It was about half an hour later that Samir arrived, he introduced himself and they sat together, the four of them in the guard hut for a few minutes.
“Mr Tariq” Samir spoke really good English, slightly accented, but good enough to converse in it without any difficulty, “My wife has food ready for us, will you join us?” he stood to enter the house, “We’ll bring some food out for Haji and Ramazan”
“No, I really shouldn’t” Tariq began
“Please, you must” Samir insisted, “Haji and Ramazan gave us vegetables earlier, I bought a little meat, please, join us”
“Very well” Tariq relented. “I heard you say you’d been looking for work, what do you do?”
“You understand Arabic?” Samir was surprised, “I thought you were English, but yes I was, I’m a mechanic.”
“ I take it you haven’t found any yet, leave that to me, you come with me tomorrow, what are you like with American trucks?”
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.— Proverbs 17 verse 1
A suggestion before you go
This one's cheeky I know.
How many of you buy books on Amazon?
Did you know that Amazon has a way that you can buy a book from them and they'll give part of the proceeds to any charity you choose?
Look up 'Amazon smile' and you'll get a list of Charities that you can support. Op Mercy is one of them.
So far Amazon has raised $37,000,000 for charity this way, I think it's wonderful, we can make a difference while reading our favourite books.
Speaking of which
Sometimes you've really got to 'walk' the path that someone has trodden to really understand where they're 'coming from'.
We can rant and rave about 'People coming and taking the jobs' but do we really know what situations these people came from.
Samir and Sara are just two of many that I know walked this path, I'm writing their story because I know it best, but I also remember the guy who told me that he fled on a bus, he was the only survivor of the bus trip because a Hind gunship came alongside and blew the bus apart with its rockets, and that was while the F16s were overhead with orders not to take the SOB down!!
Sometimes things aren't as 'clear cut' as we think they are, just remember, when you meet these people, take the time to listen before saying anything.
Things did get better for Samir, but we're a long way from being 'done' with the story.
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