News

26 May 2020
Escaping ISIS: Terror and Survival
Picture: Sandra Morello
As published in The Border Watch
Written by Sandra Morello.

Photo: A story of survival: Ahmed Murad reflects on his life as he sits along Mount Gambier’s rail corridor.

Mount Gambier migrant reveals heart-breaking journey and fears for family in Iraq as he builds new life in Australia

Ahmed Murad is determined to share his harrowing story in a final act of resistance and hope.

Sitting motionless at the Mount Gambier Migrant Resource Centre, Ahmed struggles to articulate the horror unleashed on his family and homeland.

He clutches pages of a handwritten memoir and slowly reveals how his family was attacked, persecuted and destroyed.

The 25-year-old Yazidi immigrant from Iraq and his family were victims of ISIS.

“ISIS have destroyed my childhood dreams and my life,” Ahmed said.

It is difficult to grasp how an individual can survive such deep psychological wounds of terror, brutality and profound loss.

“My goal is to reach out as the voice of my family and Yazidi community to the world and especially to the Australian people,” he told The Border Watch.

While Ahmed and a number of his family members have settled in Mount Gambier, tragically he does not know whether some of his other siblings or his father are still alive.

One of his sisters is among thousands of women who are being held captive by an extremist Muslim family as Iraqi people are continuing to suffer due to religious persecution.

Before ISIS attacked his community, Ahmed lived an idyllic life in one of the villages of Al-Qahtaniya, south of the Shangal district.

Ahmed reveals his family tried to flee three days before the murderous ISIS regime descended on his community.

“We tried to get out of our area, but the government prevented this and told us do not fear you are safe here,” he said.

But on the night of August 3, 2014, two hours after midnight, ISIS attacked the area of Yazidian, specifically the villages of Karzark and Siba Sheikh Khadr.

The government retreated after the first hour of the battle with ISIS, leaving the Yazidis behind. ISIS attacked fiercely and with heavy artillery – hundreds of young men and the elderly tried to defend their families with light weapons.

ISIS terrorists demanded residents changed their religion to Muslim or they would “take their sisters, fathers and brothers”.

In a frightening account, Ahmed revealed how he was captured and his head was covered before he was kidnapped and taken away.

“They asked me over and over again whether I was Yazidi or Muslim. I spoke Arabic because I knew if I spoke my language (Kurmanji), they would kill me without question,” he recalled.

Ahmed eventually told them he was Muslim to stay alive. Accused of lying, Ahmed was taken to a mosque and forced to pray.

In a desperate attempt to stay alive, Ahmed escaped by scrambling to the roof top of a nearby building. Remarkably, he hid there for 11 hours and when darkness fell, Ahmed escaped to nearby mountains.

With little food and shelter, Ahmed sheltered at Mount Sinjar for 14 days.

Although he survived, many perished given the extreme temperatures and lack of food.

More than 100,000 people fled to take refuge on Mount Sinjar – many of the men were massacred.

Thousands of Yazidis were either executed and thrown into pits, or died of dehydration, injuries or exhaustion.

In fact, so many people were missing the enslavement of women did not immediately come to international attention.

Emergency food and water was later dropped to them in the mountains before they were rescued and taken to refugee camps.

“I had no idea where my family was, but ISIS told me they would take my sisters. I still do not know anything about my family. I do not know where my father is,” Ahmed said.

Thankfully, Ahmed’s mother Adolah Abbaso and sister Jameelah Zindinan, 20, are now living safely with him in Mount Gambier.

In a shocking revelation, Ahmed revealed he was forced to buy his mother and sister from ISIS for a large sum of money.

“ISIS called me and asked if I would pay for them. I told them I could not find that sort of money. They said ‘we do not care, if you do not find this money I will kill your mum’.”

Ahmed – who has five brothers and five sisters – was given a three day deadline.

“After that, I contacted some people in Germany (former Yazidi refugees) who were friends of my family and they helped me with money,” he recalled.

Ahmed paid the money at an office and after a week ISIS called and told him to go to a nearby region.

He was ordered to go alone.

Arriving at an unfamiliar desert landscape, Ahmed horrifically watched ISIS throw his mother out of their moving vehicle and run over her.

“My mum was at the back of the car and he hit her with the vehicle, then he left.”

His mother is now confined to a wheelchair.

Ahmed has recently received news that his youngest sister is living with a radical Muslim family who she is cooking and cleaning for.

Horrifically, this family is renting his much loved sister out to be raped.

Ahmed has recently seen her in a video, dressed in black.

While Ahmed is thankful he is living in Mount Gambier, he wants the Mount Gambier community to understand what has happened to his homeland and his family.

He wants the world to understand the lasting legacy of ISIS.

In a sign of hope, Ahmed’s brother – who is in a refugee camp in Iraq – has been granted a visa to come to Australia.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic had put these plans on hold.

“I am very worried about my brother and his family the coronavirus will spread in the refugee camp. The tents are one metre away from each other and there is only one toilet for 100 people.”

Many Yazidis continue to live in refugee camps given ISIS supporters continue to occupy their homes.

“I lived in the refugee camp for three years in a tent. It was terribly cold in winter because it snows.”

Ahmed is employed by the Migrant Resource Centre as bilingual case worker and hopes to one day study pharmacy.

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