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SURVIVOR’S STORIES: IN THEIR OWN WORDS | Three brothers, Northern Iraq

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This family from north Iraq consists of two parents and five children – all boys. On Sunday 28 March 1999, one week before Easter, the whole family (which belongs to the Christian minority of the country) went to church in the afternoon. Three of the sons, David and Robin – who are twins, then aged 11 – and Evon, 15 – left ahead of their parents to return home to watch TV.

The mother was walking with her church sisters, and as she entered the narrow street where is lived, she saw ahead of her a crowd of people gathered at a gate. She did not immediately realise that it was her own gateway. As she got closer she was informed that her sons had had an accident. In a state of shock upon seeing the scene of the accident, she did not recognise the boys as her own. She was so traumatized that she could not even cry. The father of the boys, who arrived with his friends shortly after her, wrapped the boys in blankets and took them to a hospital. The neighbours, who were first aware of the misfortune, hesitated to go to the assistance of the boys as they did not know the cause of the loud explosion and feared that the house was under attack.

The boys later told their mother that they collected an object, which they found at a former military airport, and brought it home. They kept the object in the front yard. According to the mother, no one in the family had been informed about mines and unexploded ordnance. After church, David and Evon began playing with it, trying to dismantle it. Then Robin decided to use a stone to hit it. There was a loud explosion.

David lost both legs and the right arm at the elbow. Robin also lost both legs and one eye. Evon lost one leg and one arm. After the explosion, the boys remained conscious and were immediately aware that they had lost their limbs.

The three boys are now 13 and 17 years old, but they have stopped attending school. After receiving their prostheses they tried to go to school again, but the other students made fun of them. Evon was even pushed by a classmate, fell and damaged one of his prostheses. Although the mother tried to convince them to go back, they say that they do not feel comfortable when they go to school.

There is no social safety net in north Iraq. At the time of the accident, there was no network of services for victims. This family and others like it have had to cope with tragic circumstances on their own. Now, at the initiation of the United Nations Office of the Iraq Programme (UNOIP) and its non-governmental partners, support for local victim rehabilitation and mine risk reduction education are being made accessible through the development of a comprehensive and integrated system of services. Before interviewing this family, the magnitude of its problems was unknown. Through the Victim Support and Mine Awareness units, and a variety of service providers, its needs are finally being addressed.


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