"Coyote" part 6
From the Author
Just want to say welcome back to the story. Life wasn't easy for Samir and Sara, first they'd lost almost all of their families in the terrible wars Iraq had fought, then family were killed in the uprising against Saddam, who with ruthless efficiency was exterminating all the family members of anyone even remotely involved in them, right back to the third generation, as far back as their grandparents!
They were now in the north, safe for the time being, and Samir even had a job, but the 'Sword of Damocles' was still over their heads, what could they do, and where would they get the money?
We'll make them listen!
Samir hadn’t ever thought of the Kurds as ‘brothers’ but here was Luka, telling him just that! Luka was a Kurd, and he was Muslim, that is that’s what he said he was, but Samir had seen even him reading the Bible a couple of times. Tariq had gotten him an Arabic one and he’d sit and read some of it most days.
Samir had asked him about it, and why he wasn’t reading the Qur’an, Luka’s reaction had been simple.
“I’m a Kurd” he’d replied, “I want to know our history, you know we weren’t allowed to read about Kurdish history in Saddam’s Iraq, there’s nothing about the Kurds in the Qur’an” he shifted slightly, “but this book” he held it up, almost waving it in front of Samir’s face, there was a tear in his eye as he said it, “This book is full of our history, look here” he opened the book, it fell open at the story of Abram leaving Mesopotamia, “This happened just a couple of hundred kilometers away! Near Aleppo, IN KURDISTAN! Or here,” He was turning to the story of Noah’s Ark, “Mount Ararat, in KURDISTAN!” Luka was almost weeping, finally he turned to another story, “You remember the big Mosque in the centre of Kirkuk?”
Samir was taken aback, he knew exactly where this was going, but it was so strange he really didn’t know how to handle it, “Yes, the Mosque of the prophet Daniel, where the prophet daniel is meant to be buried!”
“That’s right” Luka replied, “His story isn’t in the Qur’an, only his sayings” he fumbled the pages a little, “But here it is, all of it! This is our story, and I want to know it!”
That had been a few days before, now Luka was calling him a ‘brother’, he liked them, but it took a lot of getting used to!
Luka looked him right in the eye, “We’ll make them listen”
A truth I learned
If you make a friend of a Kurd, they'll be your friend for life.
Make an enemy and they'll still be your friend for life, but your life will only be a few minutes longer!
Make a friend of a Kurd
"God on our side, that's a stretch!"
Luka was good at his word, as soon as the meeting was over Mr James and Mrs Pauline made sure that both of them went to see the local authorities, Samir told them the full story of all that happened, right from the day they left Baghdad until the time they arrived in Zakho.
He made the report, talked to the local authorities who made promises they’d follow things up with the Turks and “Keep you posted” about any developments, he wasn’t hopeful, but didn’t say anything, that is until he got home and talked to Sara.
“You honestly believe they’ll do anything?” Sara asked him as they were eating that night, Tariq was still at work, and said he’d eat with Mr James and Pauline that night, it was kind of amusing juggling living with two other men in the house, but there were frustrations as well.
“I don’t know what they can do really!” he was truthful, “I mean Hamid’s probably long gone, and so will the money be!” he took a piece of bread, dipped it in the sauce, a kind of tomato and eggplant sauce. “I really don’t know, but they believe things can happen!”
“Since when has God listened to us?” Sara was more sad than anything else, they were taught, even as Christians that God had much more important things to deal with than the daily trivialities of some obscure christians that even the priests couldn’t always remember the names of!
“These people believe it!” Samir’s reply was more a statement of a fact than any attempt to argue the point, he still didn’t believe that anything would come of it, but he’d gone along with what they’d said simply to keep his job, not that any threat had been made, he just didn’t want to give any opportunity for anything to go wrong!
They ate the rest of the meal in silence. It felt good to have people ‘on their side’ for once, but God being ‘on their side’ that was a real stretch!
The 'Blessed becomes the blessing'
Samir continued working hard, getting as many of the vehicles as he could back on the road. He managed two, that was two extra to those Op Mercy already had.
He pulled up in the latest 'restoration’, one that had quite a bit of work, on the gearbox and springs at the back, they weren't perfect, but at least they were functional.
“I'm really sorry Mr James,” Samir began explaining as he climbed out, James was right by the guard hut, “but some are”
“Stop right there” James held up his hand, that can't have been good, what did they expect?
“The work you've done,” James began, “is nothing short of a miracle! We gave you a dozen or so clapped out, tired frames with just about everything you can think of wrong with them” he stopped and walked round the vehicle. The cracked windshield was still there, the crack was about half way up (or down, depending on how you saw things) on the passenger side, and stretched right across but descended to two thirds down on the drivers side.
“But Mr James” he butted in.
“I told you stop” James looked across at him, “ we've got half a dozen villages wanting a safe water supply built, the UN has the materials, they wanted us to supervise the work, we couldn't” he opened the driver's door and climbed in, the keys were in the ignition, James couldn't resist, he turned the key.
The big four litre 'straight four’ engine started first time, then he went on, “now Samir, I've got Azeem working in one village, and I can send another team to the second village, AND I can keep one of these for working in the town, and you get the third one, cos we've got a heap of work for you, you'll need a vehicle to get to some of it!”
Samir was dumbfounded! He thought he'd done well, but had been really worried it wasn't enough, now, not only did he have a job, he also had a vehicle.
Welcome to the Kurdish villgae
Five months, that's how long Samir, Sara and little George stayed with Tariq and Luka. It was good, a time of thinking things through, and starting to plan.
“Whatever we do” it was Sara who spoke one night as they were eating, Tariq and Luka were both away, out east visiting other NGOs in Suliemaniah. “We must have some sort of plan!”
“I agree” Samir responded, “let's start with finding a place of our own, for a rent we can afford”
“Abu Boutros says there's a small place just down from the church,” Sara suggested, “maybe we can look at it, he says it's two rooms but a communal courtyard.”
Abu Boutros was the local Assyrian priest, his name, translated into English meant 'Father Peter’. An apt name for one who even looked similar to what Samir thought a Galilean fisherman would.
He was an older man with a gentle spirit that everyone, Muslim and Christians. What he hadn't mentioned was he was their landlord and he wouldn't be charging them rent, but then again, it was just like him.
The place had six families, all living under the same ‘roof’ as it were, Abu Butros’. It was his house, rather it was the church’s and being the priest, he had the use of it. Not all the families were ‘christian’ it just wasn’t in his heart to turn anyone away, and it showed.
Two of them were actually widows households, with no men at all, victims at some time or other of one of the many purges that took the lives of the men, or maybe one of the wars Saddam had inflicted on the people, it didn’t matter, they were all welcome in the little ‘commune’
Abu Butros only had one rule, and that was “if you can work, then you contribute” and that meant that those who had work and an income pooled their money, and bought food for the others, those who were able bodied enough to work, but had none could do things like wash clothes, tend the vegetable garden, and even go work in some of the villages around that were still able to grow food, that way they could help out, those who couldn’t do manual work, could still help out in the schools and things, there was something that everyone could do.
They didn’t have much, but fifty or more adults and twenty children lived in the little place, with little help from the outside world. Samir and the truck were a big bonus, as now they’d be able to get the produce from the villages to market!
“What the heck is that?” Sara woke with a start, they'd been in the new place about a month, it had been a really quiet neighbourhood, but this morning there was a rumbling, the earth itself was shaking, almost vibrating, “what's going on?” She was beginning to panic.
Samir was awake with the first slight tremor, he knew it all too well, it wasn't an earthquake, for him, it was far more ominous, he said just one word. “Tanks!”
He quickly got dressed, there was shouting in the street, mostly Aramaic, but some Kurdish, they could hear children crying, women beginning to wail, and the rising panic in the men's voices as they tried to keep things calm.
It's impossible to keep people calm when you're not calm yourself, all it does is add to the building sense of despair and panic, that's exactly what was happening, voices we're getting louder, the rumbling seemed to fade off in one direction, but increase from the opposite one, as if pieces of a massive convoy were passing, only to be replaced by the next.
The Dodge pickup was secured in the courtyard, Mr James had told Samir he could use the vehicle, and could take it home, as long as he picked people like Jamila up for work in the mornings
“I need to check on the vehicle” Samir made for the doorway. Sara reached out and took hold of his arm, her right hand gripping so tight it he began to feel his circulation being cut off, his arm started going numb.
“Be careful” was all she could say, the dim light of the paraffin lamp they had cast shadows on her face, but even then he could see the worry, the worry of a woman who'd already lost too much to the gun.
“I won't leave the courtyard” Samir assured her, “we'll be safe as long as we stay behind its walls”
For all the rumbling and shouting, the noise of huge machines, the clattering of tracks, the one thing they hadn't heard was gunfire! Had the Kurdish Peshmerga been taken by surprise? Samir knew that wasn't likely, thirty years they'd been fighting Saddam, they'd been fighting in Turkey for the same length of time, it just wasn't likely, no, something else was going on!
Abu Boutros was out in the courtyard, he was trying to calm the two widows who were frantic, the sound of the tanks brought back terrible memories of the night their husbands and oldest boys had vanished.
“Please” Father Boutros was saying (Abu means ‘father’) “We’re safe here”
“But the Tanks?” the older widow screamed. She was in her late thirties, possibly early forties, she was wailing and throwing dirt in the air, just like the Biblical picture of ‘sackcloth and ashes’ where the person mourning would thrown the dust over themselves, symbolizing that we came from dust, and one day we’ll return to being dust.
Sara had heard the wailing, she came out just after Samir, she pushed right past him, almost knocking him off his feet, heading straight for the woman she extended her arms and ‘enveloped her in a hug, “They’re not Saddam’s Tanks” she said firmly
“How do you know?” the woman wailed again, the other widow, slightly younger, only in her late twenties, she had five children, one as young as three years, Sara knew her story, she’d lost her husband running through the minefields to escape Saddam back in ‘91.
Sara turned and looked directly at Samir as the two women began crying again, even Father Boutros looked puzzled.
“I was with a Tank unit in the Army” Samir spoke slowly, he didn't like admitting he’d served Saddam, especially not here, where you’re much more likely to meet a ‘Peshmerga’ who fought against you, “I was a mechanic with them” he looked down at the ground, almost ashamed to admit it, “You get to know what a T72 Main Battle Tank sounds like” He said, “and they weren't T72s, they were much heavier and had a distinct whine about them!”
The noise was dissipating now, almost as if it was leaving, maybe it was, “Maybe we should look out and see?” Father Boutros started for the gate.
“NO!” Samir grabbed his arm, “There'll still be soldiers around” he pulled the man back, checking the gate was still closed he carried on, “they might shoot you, look, It’ll be daylight soon, then it'll be safe to go out, then we can find out, we're safe as long as we stay behind the gate, so let’s wait until it’s safe!”
All for now.
Okay, I've probably done a mean thing and left you wondering what the heck is going on, or rather was going on at the time right?
That's exactly the same questions we had when we heard the rumbling of Tanks, we knew they weren't Saddam's, if they had been then all hell would be breaking loose as the A10s stationed in Turkey would have torn them to pieces, but what, or rather who was rumbling through the streets and scaring the 'bejabbers' out of us?
Sorry, but you'll have to wait a week to find out.
However if you've enjoyed this story, it's actually a true one, and when I've finished the telling I'll bring it out on Amazon, under the title of 'Angels fear' because to get to safety 'Samir' and 'Sara' literally had to go 'Where Angels fear to tread' but you can get my first novel set in the same area. The link is below.
Also, look out for the second novel coming soon, "Scorpion's reach"