top of page

The Birthing of a King

One day in 2019 Daoud walked through our blue gates. That day it was as if the ground shook under our feet, the birds silenced their song mid tune, the leaves on the trees ceased to rustle in the breeze. The young general of generals had been released from his five years of captivity in ISIS and was on our turf. And we, quite frankly, did not know what to do.

The presence of Daoud was like a magnet. As word spread that HE was at The Hope Centre, his also rescued former troops came out of their tents and gathered. The authority that he had earned whilst in ISIS, and the fear and dread that it brought to many, still existed. They came out of an unspoken obedience. None of us knew…what…

Daoud had been feared, Daoud would prevent escapes from ISIS, Daould would punish those planning escape. Daoud was Al Baghdadi’s right hand man. Enough said.

Daoud in captivity

We watched as we observed him. We watched him learn how to dress, trying to match colors, trying to find a hairstyle that worked for his curly hair. We watched him disengaging from the military garb and adopting a Kurdish dress style. That spoke volumes.

He connected with all of us, he took time and made the effort to come and talk. Many of our students, all former conscripts in ISIS for a long while, would do no more than grunt at us. Daoud would talk. He came to us for advice. When certain security situations arose that could affect us, and of which we, Dr Saeed and I, were totally unaware, he alerted us. To give you an example, now that time has passed, he knew which of the students was conducting weapons deals “live” in our playground. He protected us. He ensured our safety. He used his inside knowledge to promote life. Having consulted with us, he made wise choices. He disengaged and did not look back. He engaged with study, anxious to learn, anxious to make up for years of education that had been stolen from him whilst he had been trained for war.

Barzan was another one who had made a similar impact to that of Daoud. Barzan’s eyes when he came to us, reflected hell and the abyss. They were terrifying. Yet, and it is a story for another day, came the day when we weighed up employing Barzan at Horses for Hope. Dr Saeed and I called Daoud into the office to seek his opinion. He left the office having secured employment for both Barzan and himself. He had been doing very part time work as a cab driver.

And so, the journey from student to staff began. His journey with Horses for Hope began at the time when we were just about to receive the gift of two horses from our valued friend. We knew nothing. Daoud was busy googling everything about horses and learning from the internet. Our friends from Texas were in to receive the horses, and basically ensure that we didn't kill them out of lack of knowledge. They began to pour their years of wisdom and experience into Daoud and Barzan, enabling them to fly.

Daoud’s natural leadership and authority revealed him to be the natural Director of the stables. Every evening, he would pour over every equine site online. He studied, he proved himself. Within a short period of time, Daoud and Barzan decided that Daoud would be the main trainer for our stallion Taj, and Barzan would train the more gentle Newroz. And this is where I ask the question. Did Daoud heal Taj, or did Taj heal Daoud? As I said to Daoud today, healing took place in both lives, in both broken spirits, simultaneously.

As strong as Daoud was, he was broken, most of his family being slaughtered or taken into captivity. He was a leader but his heart was fragmented. As he learned to love, to trust, to invest in someone, in Taj from the posture of care, of respect and of dignity, he began to heal.

His launching pad and his safety net was that of “Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” That is how we behaved to him, how we treat all of our student community. And that became Daoud’s standard for life, one which embraced our magnificent, proud, scornful, non trusting Taj bringing him back to life, and to a gentleness and kindness rarely found in such stallions.

Daoud and Taj is a love story. Daoud and our equally broken Emir whom we rescued from the local self proclaimed farrier is yet another story. As I watched Daoud and our broken horses heal, I returned to read The Little Prince.


"What does that mean - tame"? 

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox, “It means to establish ties."“To establish ties?’ "Just that," said the fox. "To me you are still nothing more than a little boy who is like a hundred thousand little boys. I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world." 

Antoine de Saint- Exupery


As they walked and healed side by side, face to face, breath to breath, Daoud and Taj, Daoud and Emir, Daoud and our three babies, became unique in all the world.

We say farewell to Daoud at the end of this week. It is painfully hard to let him go but we release him to the next chapter of his life with joy. We release him and send him out in the knowledge that he has found Love, he knows Hope, his wounds and his fragmented pieces have been healed and that he knows what it is to experience the goodness of God in the land of the living. He lives in that goodness, despite many challenges and hardships.

I remember a couple of years back chatting with several of the rescued young men, they shared how when taken into captivity, they “began as children from zero”. An unwanted chapter, one forced upon them requiring survival in a new beginning. After they were rescued and placed in refugee camps, not by their choice they began yet again, from zero. Daoud is beginning a new chapter of his life, one that is unknown, but he is not beginning from zero. He is beginning from a place of freewill and the freedom to choose. The first decision not based upon survival in ten years.

He is beginning from a place of wholeness. He knows true leadership, he has lived and worked wearing the mantle of loving authority, of knowing what it is to sacrifice for others, to care for the welfare of others and put their needs first. He is a strong warrior, a warrior who knows the radical power of love, of grace and of mercy. He is starting again, once again but with a kingly sceptre held in his hand. He has acquired the wisdom to choose between good and evil, between right and wrong, between light and darkness. He knows how to guide and direct others. Daoud has become a David. He knows how to wear the garments of a king whilst going to rescue a sheep tangled in the thorns. David has been birthed from Daoud.

And as the King and Psalmist wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Go Daoud Go! Go David Go!!


In 2014 you were kidnapped into captivity. In 2019 you were rescued from the Caliphate of ISIS. Today at the end of February 2024, we, your family, SEND you out. We SEND you out with tears, but they are tears of joy. May the hand of God be upon you. May you know his blessings which make rich and add no sorrow. Be SENT David.



Can you help?

With your help lives are being transformed from brokenness to wholeness - with love and hope.


Every donation makes a huge difference.



bottom of page