“I loved my childhood. I grew up with my family in Tel Azer, where my father had a small supermarket for grocery supplies. I loved school, I wasn't one of those kids who looked for an excuse not to study, I loved school. I enjoyed my studies and took them seriously. After school and on days off, I would help my father in the store. I was never idle, I never sat around.
We also had sheep. I loved the sheep. I would help my family with them, take them out, spend time learning each one of them, and bring them in at night. I learned so much from my school studies and as much from the sheep.”
D chats today, he is relaxed, his eyes are clear and shining. He is 20 now. He is one of our Princes, one on whom I would stake my life. A young man who is straightforward, no pretense, a man of integrity and honesty. A young man with one of the most captivating smiles that when it goes beyond the border of his cheeks breaks into a winning laugh.
We have not always had such a love affair with him. He was number one on our highly suspect list. When he arrived, the camp trembled. All of our students who had been held in Syria stood to silent attention. Kids we did not know suddenly appeared from far away camps. The General had arrived and without a word commanded respect. Was that good or bad, we did not know. As obeisance was being poured out and lining his way, we chose to say “Hello, you are welcome” and then basically ignored him for a period of time. Carefully listening, watching and observing.
We watched how his dress code changed. The military flack stuff was dumped for jeans. His dress taste was appalling, no color coordination but hey, the kid was alone in life, the sole survivor of his family, trying to find his way. Slowly, oh so slowly, just by being himself, revealing the hidden D, the trusting, dreaming teenager that was stolen from him when he was taken into captivity at 14 years old, he won our trust, our respect and our hearts.
This is his dream
“I paid much attention to my studies because I planned to be a doctor. It was totally clear to me that I would be a doctor. True, I helped with the sheep and helped in the market, and oh yes, I played football with my friends every day, but I knew how to manage my time, and my studies came first. I made perfect grades and my eyes were set on medical school. My father would sometimes give me a little money in return for my help which I never spent but saved for medical school.
“Let us slay him, cast him into some pit and we shall see what becomes of his dreams.” Genesis 37.
The day that Daesh invaded our village, and took my family (I still don't know if they are alive or dead) into captivity was the day that my dream died. I soon learned that in order to survive my dream had to be kept locked inside me. It was a dream from Shingal that did not suit the Islamic Caliphate. To think of such things and to speak of them were way too dangerous.
“And the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” Genesis 39
I was sent to the frontlines, in a very short space of time I was fighting alongside Al - Baghdadi, and directed many military operations with him. I was his right hand in many operations and followed his commands with perfectionism. He knew that whatever he would entrust to me, would happen. My Yezidi friends hid much from me as they were scared that I would tell him. That is not true, whatever I had to do to survive, I would have never betrayed my friends.
There were of course many injuries on the battlefield and although I never shared my dream with anyone, I had the chance to participate in the medical emergencies simply because I was there and never flinched. I learned CPR and brought the breath back to dying Daeshi fighters many times. I learned how to make and apply a tourniquet to stop the blood flow. I have sterilized wounds in the middle of the desert without any medical equipment and cut bullets out with my own knife. I have put IVs in place. I kept many fighters alive.
The day I was rescued from Daesh was a wonderful day. It was the day when I could allow myself to think about my dream again. It was so hard to reenter life again. Where do you start when your family is gone, your home is gone, you have lost five years of education? It is hard but my dream was not taken from me.
I had to rest for a few months because I had suffered many injuries and needed time to heal. It was during this time that I determined to start again from a place that was familiar to me, football and a small store. I had to get up, work hard and make my way in life. It was a decision to put all the brainwashing away, to turn the corner and to deeply connect with society in Kurdistan and to succeed.
I began to study with Springs of Hope, English and computers and of course returned to playing football.
"I am Joseph, your brother!" Genesis 45.
Springs of Hope found a donor for me and with that money I began to save again until I could open a small market inside my camp, close to my tent, a market selling the basic daily supplies. It was not easy, for the first three months, I put a smile on my face every day but no one came near me. My reputation from my time on the battlefield had gone before me and everyone was scared of me. Each day I would wake up, shower, wear my smile and stand by the entrance to my tent market waiting, just waiting for the situation to change. I knew I had to stay optimistic, I knew that I could never look frustrated as everyone was watching me. One day my first customer came to buy something simple. I treated him as if he were royalty. I guess the word got out, and then people began to buy from me. My fortunes had changed, the patience I learned when tending the sheep and then again in the long years of captivity, finally paid off.
I chat with everyone, treat them with respect. Thank God I am now selling, yes I need more money to buy more goods, but slowly, slowly it will happen. I want to increase and develop the market and hope to get outside the tent into something more permanent.
I chose to open a market for two reasons, one I have some experience from my childhood, also I am injured from the battlefield and my legs have been broken several times, meaning that I can't put myself out there for day labor. I can't lift or carry heavy things.
I am very disciplined, I open every morning at 7, I am never late, and close at 10 pm. When I go to Springs of Hope, my cousin takes care of the store for me.
I was 14 years old, in the 9th grade when Daesh came. This year when the school opens in October I am going back to 9th grade. At 20 years old this will be hard for me but I have a dream. I will be a doctor. Yes, it will take time but I will finish high school and enroll in the Institute of Medicine in Zaxo. I will be a doctor. A doctor with a limp. But I will be a doctor and the best there is.
I am excited for my future."