From the time I drank water from the spring in Lalesh, I fell in love with the most peaceful, loving, and vulnerable people I have ever met, the Yazidis.
|Lalesh or Lalish|
|Lalish/Lalesh for more info click here|
Earlier tonight I sat by the side of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi herself who spoke up in the Iraqi parliament against the butchery taking place against her people. The same woman later visited Mount Sinjar^, where thousands were stuck surrounded by ISIS. During her visit, the helicopter crashed and as a result Vian was severely injured and hospitalized.
|Vian Dakhil’s plea in Parliament|
Normally when I hear stories like these my heart can’t take it. My tears flood down my cheeks and create puddles in my notepad, later, I wont be able to read the smudged words I have written. Today, was different. Vian’s strength as she described her story to us made me burn in the inside but I kept a smile as a I sat in front of a hero, strong woman, someone who lives her life to help her people sorry, can’t find the right word, but definitely someone I admire.
“Vian, what happened?!” My mother exclaimed in a question with no end. Vian laughed, a look on her face that says “Oh aunty where do I start from?”
I am silent. Secretly wishing to hear this from the start, but I also understand if she doesn’t tell her story, after all she is still attempting to recover.
“We took off from Peshxabur,” she begins.
“Wait. Can I take notes?” I interrupt.
“You can even record.” I didn’t expect this as an answer from an MP who is on a hospital bed with no makeup, wearing a simple shirt supported by pillows all around. Hence, I refuse to do so, I don’t want her to feel she is doing an interview.
|Taking notes – typical me.|
“Other than me it was a pilot, a co-pilot, three other people as well as a group who had brought food, four journalists, Yadgar’s uncle Thawri and Yadgar too. They had brought bread, and I think, oranges, apples, juices and water. As we were flying over Mount Sinjar they were throwing them down to people.”
|Vian’s last pictures with the martyred pilot, Majid Tmimi|
As Vian begins her story, I watch her father sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. If I was sitting any closer to him I would probably see a sparkle in his eyes, surrounded by faint wrinkles behind is glasses. I watch him kneel forward to hear the clear words of his outspoken daughter. I watch him hear the encounter that he has probably heard for the hundred and tenth time today.
“I sat by the captain in the helicopter he was explaining to me what he is doing, people were running on the mountain beneath us, following the helicopter, making signals. Some took off their shirts waving them in the air. It was tough.”
“We landed. I spoke to the Peshmerga and people. Everyone ran inside the helicopter so they can return with us. We couldn’t stay too long we had to take off quickly. Once we got into the helicopter and began to take off it lost balance. The pilot said it was too heavy, some people had to get off.”
There is a little pause here and that’s when I know the Vian who loves her people and lives to fight for their rights is finding it difficult to take in that the pilot is now dead.
“One of the woman told me ‘take my two kids, I will get off.'” There is another momentary pause here. I don’t ask what happened to the kids.
“No one wanted to leave the helicopter, some had to be forcefully taken out. It was hard. We tried to take off again, as we did, we lost balance once more and the main rotor of the helicopter hit against the side of the cliff/ mountain, we crashed with the front hitting the ground.”
“I was sitting behind the pilot. About 40/45 people fell on me in addition to the other things we had with us. I thought I was dead. In a matter of seconds I saw in front of my eyes a quick video tape of my life.”
|Vian’s Facebook caption to this photo reads:
عذرا ،،، كوجو
لم استطع ان افعل لكِ شيئا
Here, I can see the MP living that particular moment again. Now I know what people mean when they say they saw death with their own eyes.
“The next thing I remember it was dark. Very dark. I was breathing heavily trying to take in oxygen. I called Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. with a very faint voice.”
Here she speaks gently, living the moment to depict the picture of what had happened. I look at Vian’s mother, she is staring at her daughter without a blink, resisting the tears laying at the corners of her eyes. This woman must be proud to have raised such a daughter, I think to myself.
|After the helicopter crash|
“My breathing stopped, but a little of air was coming to me every now and then. I took as much of it in as I could. I knew very well my leg was broken. I could feel it. As I opened my eyes I could see a little hole of light slowly it became bigger and bigger. I knew by then there are people removing things on top of me. Twice I took out my hand, someone tried to pull me out but couldn’t. Here, I lost the little hope that I had.”
“I began to hear people calling vian, vian, vian. then I knew they were looking for me.”
After removing the people and the goods on top of Vian they reached her. She recalls being lifted and walked from the sight of the crash to the mountain with her broken leg dangling behind. “I asked about people–who survived and who didn’t, I was told the pilot didn’t make it and died immediately.”
From the start of our evening till this point I knew this woman is deeply affected by the death of the pilot. At this point there is interruption in the room that the pilot’s family need to be taken care of, and a statue or monument to be created on the Shingal mountain in his honor. Of course, once all this ISIS issue is over.
“One of the Peshmerga brought two pieces of boxes and put my legs between it, he then took off his shirt and tied my legs with it.”
Then Vian goes on to talk. My mind flies away to the top of Mount Shingal and therefore I miss all that she says. My mind goes to the Muslim male Peshmerga saving the life of a Yazidi woman; My mind goes to an Arab pilot who dies while taking aid to Yazidi people. Then again, there are people animals monsters like ISIS who kill their fellow humans because they believe only they deserve to live in this world.
|In the helicopter, after the crash|
Anyhow, I manage to wake myself up from this thought, re-focussing my attention to the woman laying on the hospital bed in front of me.
“In the helicopter back the body of the pilot was laying next to me. The atmosphere smelt like blood, like death, everyone was shaking.”
Here, Vian’s father, who has been silent the entire time interrupts. “She called me while she was on mount Shingal,’dad if you hear a plane crashed on the mountain, don’t worry I wasn’t inside.'”
|Recovering her physical wounds but still strong & loud about her views
and still fighting for her people’s rights.
We all let out a little laugh, a little sigh and we all look at one another realizing in her most difficult moments this woman is thinking of her father. She didn’t want her father to be worried, to be concerned, to go through a moment of not physical, but mental stress.
“Then I watch TV and it says Vian was on the crashed helicopter. I didn’t believe the TV because her voice came out so strong and clear, it didn’t feel like she has broken her body parts in a crashed helicopter.”
Vian picks up from here, “Yes, I used a Peshmerga’s mobile phone. I didn’t tell anyone that I will be going on the helicopter to the mountain. Dad called earlier while I was on the plane I didn’t pickup, because I didn’t know what to tell him.”
|Dr. Dakhil, Vian’s father…|
Vian gives a gentle laughter, “I kept strong for that call after the crash, I had to make it, I remember at the end of the call my dad asked me when I come back to bring my aunty with me, she is in Duhok. I said okay.”
“I didn’t call my mum, because I know she never picks up her phone and we had a lot of guest at home I knew she is busy, same go to my sisters. Dad always answers.”
“Dad always answers” is the last sentence I have written in my little notebook, leaning on Vian Dakhil’s hospital bed taking notes on Friday night. Inside I am packed with thoughts, emotions and feelings. When I see this strong woman I don’t dare shed a single tear.
|Some people are born to make a positive change in the world, Vian Dakhil|
I look once again to her father, still sitting down. His built is strong and tall from the outside, a white, thick moustache reflecting years and years of experience in life. A father who has clearly been part of his daughter’s journey right from the beginning, a father who is in deep thoughts. A father who is living difficult times as his people are in a genocide. He is sitting watching his outspoken daughter who brought hope to every Yazidi, who President Obama quoted and who made us all cry over our keyboards as she spoke out for her people in parliament. I don’t need to wonder what he is feeling and what he is thinking. After all the last words in my notes quoting Vian says it all: Dad always answers…Dad always answers….
I have taken some of the pictures, others compiled from Vian Dakhil’s official Facebook page, the New York Times, The Time.
*Yazidi, otherwise can be spelled Yezidi, or the right term is Ezidi.
^Mount Sinjar is better known locally as Shingal or sometimes Shingar.
I Started writing this post on Friday – but kept coming back to it till I finished it off today. Sorry for the delay.