SHAFAQNA – DOHUK, Kurdistan Region — Beyda, a mother of five, is a survivor of the attack by Islamic radicals on the largely Yezidi town of Shingal in Nineveh province last month. Beyda and her family are Muslims, but as Shiites they were not spared as Sunni extremists took control of the town. Beyda witnessed the death of six of her family members, and later learned that her parents were killed as well.
Now a refugee in Dohuk, Beyda and her son Ahmed, who asked that their last names not be used, recounted their tragic losses and harrowing escape from the Islamic State (IS) in an interview with Rudaw.
IS militia arrive in Shingal in the morning. A family member calls to tell them to get out of town along with the Yezidis.
Beyda calls her husband, Mohammed, a police officer in Shingal who comes home and decides they should stay. His brother convinces him otherwise.
One their way out of town, IS militia stop their car and tell them to get out. As an insurgent accuses Mohammed’s brother of being a police officer, Mohammed’s brother pulls a gun from his mother’s purse, killing the militant and wounding a second.
Another militant opens fire, killing Mohammed’s parents. He walks Mohammed’s brother in front of the family and sprays him with bullets.
A second uncle is shot in the head and killed when he tries to protect his brother and stop the execution.
The fighters confront Mohammed, shooting him twice and wounding him. They threaten the other family members and tell them to leave. Ahmed refuses. “I could not leave my father,” he says.
As a militiaman pulls Ahmad away from Mohammed, he hears shots ring out. He looks back to see the militants executing his father, Mohammed’s brain and blood gushing from his head.
“I will never forget that,” he says.
Mohammed’s mother, who has a history of heart trouble, sees the execution and dies of a heart attack.
“I tried so hard to go and help her,” Beyda says. “But IS militants didn’t let me help her. They ordered me to leave, or I would be killed too.”
The fighters start eyeing Beyda’s sister-in-law and point at her. They tell her to come with them.
“We really tried to save her, but couldn’t,” Beyda says. “They took her.”
Beyda makes it to a relative’s house in Mosul to realize that the capital, which has been seized by IS extremists and Sunni militia, is not safe for her as a Shiite.
She heads to Dohuk with her five children but has no idea when she can return home. Despite the aid she has received in Dohuk, her goal is to get back to Shingal.
Her future is blurry at best. Yet despite being surrounded by death there is a glimmer of hope: Beyda is pregnant. She plans to name the baby after holy Shiite figures: Ali if it’s a boy; Zaineb if it’s a girl.
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