Pawn on the international political chessboard
2009, Zaher Mahmud
Zaher Mahmud was born in Silêmanî in 1956 and has been living as a refugee in the Netherlands since 1976. His life as an eleven year old outcast, a Kurdish guerrilla, and a war casualty scarred by a phosphorous bomb has often been noted down by others mostly for political purposes.
During the Kurdish-Iraqi War of 1974-75, at age 18, he was struck by a phosphorous bomb and severely burned. He ended up in hospital in London to convalesce.
With this book he himself takes control of the narrative. In Uncomfortable Luggage, he describes his life stripped of any political frills. It is hard and shocking, sometimes interrupted by moments of hope, ideals and humanity.
Excerpt from the book:
The following day: it’s 24 October 1974, six o’clock at night. We are hiding in a small trench. With our binoculars we can see the movement of troops straight ahead. Above us fighter jets fly over but we don’t have heavy artillery. Using my Kalashnikov I fire at the low flying aircrafts. My friends warn me not to move about so much as I may attract the enemy’s attention. I’m not worried too much; it’s just one great adventure. There’s no stopping me and I keep on pushing forward. Behind me there are some thirty Peshmerga. I’m right at the front and can clearly hear the voices of the enemy soldiers. A bomb drops. It must be a flare in order to reveal our positions. The trees, the grass and the mountains are all lit up. It leaves some luminous foam behind very close to our position. Nothing special! I go and take a look. I’m kicking some foam around. Within seconds my shoe is totally burned. I walk back with just one shoe left. This surely can’t be just a light to determine our position. I run towards my two friends. ‘Where’s your shoe’, Nebez asks. We agree that it’s definitely not been a talkanatura, a signal flare. The worst part is that of my brand new shoes only one is left. I can still hear Nebez saying that we should watch out for those strange bombs. Still I continue forward shooting bullets as I go along. A quarter of an hour later the next bomb comes down. It grazes me on my left side. Jasin flees away. Nebez is sitting next to me. He’s screaming. Peshmerga come running toward us. Nobody notices me lying in the trench. ‘It’s all over now’, I say to myself. With my hand I feel my face and my ear. The pain is starting to burn all over my body. I’m unable to call out. What’s keeping my fellow fighters?
for English version
for Dutch version
See Zaher Mahmoud’s website (Fosforbomb) to view some historical video footage from the 70s.
PS Zaher has told me that he recently sent his book to Kurdistan where it will be translated into Kurdish and Arabic.