Fatima, Omar and their son Mohammed
“When the war came, we went down to live with my sister down in the valley. After two weeks, we decided to go up and check on the pigeons, me and my friend. We staied up in the village for two days. When the first strike came, we hid behind some rocks, but then the second strike came, it threw me away. I fainted, and the next thing I remember I was in the hospital. My friend managed to roll down the hillside, he was closer to the gate so it was easier for him to get away, he survived, but he got splints in his leg too.”
Mohammed was in hospital for more than 6 months. “I had a lot of pain. And I missed my pigeons. I was dreaming about my pigeons, they are the best thing I have”
What happened with the pigeons?
“Before the strike, when we went to check on them, they were still there, but when I came back from the hospital, all were gone. I had 17 of them, I just found their feathers spread all over.”
Omar (Mohammed’s father): “Mohammed is addicted to the pigeons, just like some other people are addicted to cigarettes. When we first came to the hospital, we could not recognize him, he was so badly hurt. But then a nurse told us that the boy always talked about his pigeons, and that’s when I knew in my heart that this is my boy Mohammed. The nurse was wondering, ‘what is the story with Mohammed and the pigeons? For how long has he had pigeons?’ and I told her that he had had them since he was a small boy.”
“Half of the pigeons ran away, half of them were killed by the airstrike. After a very long time, two of them came back to me.”
Why did you come back with your friend before everybody else did?
“I had to check on the pigeons, they were hungry”
Do you regret doing that, given what happened?
“No. The pigeons needed me, someone had to feed them, and nobody could know that the airstrike would hit just then.”
“Now I have 7 pigeons, so not like before. Before I had 17.”
Do you remember anything from before the war?
“No, I keep forgetting things, I only remember the pigeons.”
“I have pain, especially when it is cold, in the winter, I have splints in my head and in my legs, and they say I need to get another operation. When I wash myself with cold water it is painful.”
Fatima (Mohammed’s mother): “Mohammed has changed completely. Now he does not have an appetite, when he is angry or stressed, there is nothing that can stop him, he is not afraid of anything, he has no limits. Now he does not listen to his parents anymore, we cannot control him. We worry about him a lot, as we don’t always know where he is.”
Why is that, Mohammed?
“I find that everything is boring and I get angry, so I just leave, I just go.”
Fatima: “He has lost parts of his memory, and he expresses no fear. Even when there are airstrikes and explosions, he is not afraid of anything.”
Are you not afraid of anything, Mohammed?
“No, I am not afraid of anything.”
What about school now?
“I go to school, but there are no teachers, so it is ridiculous to make us come there for no reason. We have only one class at school, because we, the students, pay the teacher every month to teach us.”
“I want to become a doctor.”
Fatima and Omar have five children, Mohammed is the youngest.
Fatima: “The war has broken everything.”
Omar: “I used to have a job at a factory, I worked there for 11 years, but now it is bombed. We made plastic packing. But it was bombed, it was in Haddah, close to the Sudanese Embassy. Now nothing. In the big strike it was all damaged. All the machines, everything.”
Photo: NRC/Alvhild Stromme