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« I will tell him what happened to his parents »


In April 2017, Ali and his family were used as human shields in Mosul. Caught in a bombing, Ali was severely injured and his two parents and brother were killed. The young boy is currently being treated at a hospital located south of Mosul. His aunt and uncle are taking care of him and a physiotherapist from Handicap International is providing them with advice on how to ease and speed Ali’s recovery.


Ali, on his hospital bed | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

At Qayyarah hospital, the heat is stiffling. Mosquito nets have been installed over each patient’s bed, to protect them from the hundreds of flies flying under the ceiling. A dozen of beds are aligned one by the other, and we hear a baby crying in the back of the women and children’s room. Through one of the mosquito nets, one can perceive the silhouette of a young woman holding a little boy in her arms. Khaled, Handicap International’s physiotherapist, walks toward the bed and the baby’s cries gradually stop. Ali, intrigued, looks at Khaled. “How is he today?” asks the physiotherapist to the young woman holding the baby. “He’s feeling very hot and his leg hurts, but he’s strong and he’ll recover” says Kitba looking tenderly at her nephew.

Less than a month ago, Ali was still living in Mosul, with his brother, sister and parents. “But one day, as we were all sitting at home, armed men came to take us. They gathered us with other inhabitants of our neighborhood and took us to a school, to use us as human shields. Bombings soon started… and Ali’s parents died instantly. He older brother too. He was only 9 years old.”

Ali’s grandparents, uncle and aunt survived the bombings and fled, carrying him and his sister in their arms. “As we were running towards an army-controlled area, bombings kept getting stronger. It was as if it would never stop. My dad was so scared that he had a stroke. We were brought to a field hospital and then transferred here, in Qayyarah, a few days ago.”

As Kitba recalls their escape, Ali plays with an apple and an orange, given by the hospital staff for lunch. Big scars are still visible on his face and he has trouble moving with the big cast on his leg. “He still has shrapnel incrusted in his body and his leg was broken in the bombing”, comments Kitba. Khaled advises her on how to facilitate her nephew’s recovery. “At this stage, we can’t do much more than that. Ali is too young” explains the physiotherapist. “But as soon as the doctors will remove his cast, we’ll provide him with physiotherapy sessions. It is essential if we want him to recover well.”

Kitba already seems to treat Ali as a second mother. She listens carefully to what Khaled tells her. “When we’ll leave the hospital, my nephew will come with us”, she says with tears in her eyes. “His future is in God’s hands but my only wish is for him to be happy, just like for my own son. When he’ll be old enough to understand, I will tell him what happened to his parents. And I want everybody to know their story, not only Ali.”

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