Iraqi Refugee Shares Harrowing Story Of Life In Isis-Held Fallujah
A female refugee who escaped from Islamic State (ISIS)-held Fallujah in Iraq has shared her harrowing story of the suffering her family endured in the city.
Um Ahmad, a middle-aged woman, fled with her three family members and now lives in a refugee camp in Garma in northeastern Fallujah, where they were brought by Iraqi troops several days ago.
Ahmad said that about seven or eight months ago, the prices of commodities in Fallujah surged when the battle against ISIS intensified.
The fight to retake Fallujah, which fell under ISIS control early in 2014, only made the situation worse. Ahmad's family barely survived on date palm fruits because there was no food.
"I asked about the price of a bottle of tomato sauce, which had increased to 45,000 dinars (over $38 US dollars) per kilogram. The price of flour - I even bought two kilograms and it cost me 34,000 dinars - so 17,000 dinars per kilogram. At that time, we hoped to eat bread, but could not find any. We could only eat moldy bread crumbs. But when it couldn't be found, we had to allay our hunger with date palm fruits, which had been stored for a long time," she said.
During the most intense battle against ISIS on May 23, Ahmad's family and other villagers were expelled out of their shelters by extremists, and used as human shields to slow the Iraqi troop’s offensive into Fallujah.
"Since the Iraqi troops began to launch an offensive to the extremist group, we fled from our home and hid ourselves in Zahar village. I stayed there with my family and decided to not go out, but extremists threatened us and drove us away," said Ahmad.
After being expelled from home, Ahmad's family looked for new shelter while waving a white flag, which gives a sign to government forces that they are seeking help.
Luckily, they were found by Iraqi troops and taken away from the battlefield.
But they have since lost contact with other relatives and do not know if they are still alive.
"Nobody is there, the village where we lived in. But my nephew, his wife and four children are still stuck there. Neither do I know where the other ten family members, like the brothers Safa, Ala and Mohammed have fled to. Have they been arrested by the extremist group and killed? I don't know. We cannot connect through any means of communication," said Ahmad.
The battles around Fallujah have continued as the troops face fierce resistance from extremist militants inside the city.
Government forces and allied militias have currently been fighting for months to reclaim key cities and towns in the western province of Anbar from IS militants, who have attempted to advance towards Baghdad after seizing most of the province.
Iraq has witnessed a continuous wave of violence since the Islamic State took control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions in June 2014.