Young Kurd Tells of Escape From Iraqi Execution Squad
SULAMANIYAH, IRAQ — TEYMOUR ABDULLAH AHMED sleeps with an AK-47 by his side in a room with seven other armed guerrillas.
When the 15-year-old walks the road below his village in northern Iraq he can see Iraqi tanks and artillery on the mountain ridges. A few shells are occasionally fired in his direction.
But the boy does not need sporadic explosions to remind him of President Saddam Hussein's hostility. He is one of three known survivors of what Kurdish leaders say was an Iraqi campaign in 1988 to transport perhaps thousands of Kurds to the desert near the Saudi border where they were executed and buried.
At that time, Teymour lived with his parents and three sisters in the small farming village of Qulojeo, north of Kalar.
In the spring of 1988 Kurdish militiamen working with Iraqi authorities forced about 4,000 people in the village to pile onto their vehicles and leave under Army escort. Teymour, his father, and three younger sisters rode on their tractor.
Several days later they were taken to a garrison outside Kirkuk, where the men were separated from the women and children. Peering through the gate of the compound one day, Teymour watched a line of men walk by handcuffed and stripped of clothing. "I saw my father," he said. "He did not see me, but I saw him." It was the last time Teymour saw his father.
Teymour, his mother, and sisters, after a month of detention, were put in police vans and a day later were pushed out into the desert night. Military police then herded them into pits.
"When we were in the pits, the soldiers started to shoot at us," Teymour says. "I was shot in the shoulder." Amid the roar of machine guns he crawled along a sand embankment to one of the soldiers. "I was crying," he says. "I asked him not to shoot me, but he pushed me back into the pit."
Wounded again in the back, Teymour feigned death as bulldozers pushed dirt over the bodies. Then, pulling himself out of the pit, he staggered down the road to the safety of an Arab home.
Back in northern Iraq, the boy says he sometimes lies awake remembering his village's final night in the desert.
"It seems," he says, "as if I can always hear the gunfire."