© MSF/Sacha Myers
09 Jul 18

Iraq: "A sniper hunted us down"

The frustration and pain is etched on Nashwan’s face. The external fixture holding his broken bones together protrudes uncomfortably from his leg.

In March 2017, a sniper shot him in the back and leg during the conflict in Mosul between the Islamic State (IS) group and Iraqi forces. Nashwan is from west Mosul and has struggled for more than a year to access healthcare to repair his leg.

He is currently receiving treatment at the Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) post-operative care facility in east Mosul. This is Nashwan’s story:  

"We had a comfortable life"

“My name is Nashwan and I was born in 1976. I have three children and I have been married for 15 years. I have a diploma in information technology but after graduation I couldn’t get work in the public sector so I worked as a freelancer. Then I drove a taxi. We had a comfortable life.

We still live in Mosul in the same house and the same area. Even during the darkest times of the conflict, we didn't flee.

On 11 March 2017, our neighbourhood was retaken [from the Islamic State group]. Two days later, we went out to buy food and we were happy. But the fighting was continuing in the neighbourhoods around ours.

There was a tall building nearby and there was a sniper on top. He started hunting us down. My neighbour was shot in the head and killed. My brother was shot in the leg. The sniper shot me in the back and in the leg.

People in the neighbourhood helped us and they took us to the Iraqi forces. The soldiers checked our documents and then took us to the hospital in Hamman al-Alil (30km south of Mosul).

There, doctors checked me and then sent me to Qayyarah. In the Qayyarah hospital, they removed the bullet from my back. But they didn't have the capacity to treat my leg. So, they sent me to Erbil.

In Erbil, they put the external fixations on my leg and said that I would be fine and would just need time. After five days, I went back to the east side of Mosul.

Nashwan, is prepared for surgery at the MSF post-operative care facility in east Mosul.

I live in the west side of Mosul but all the roads were still closed or destroyed [because of the ongoing conflict], so my family put me on a cart and pushed me home. I waited in my house for several months for the bombs to stop.

During these seven months at home, the pain started to grow in my leg and hip, and eventually it became unbearable. So in October 2017, I went to the general hospital in west Mosul.

They did x-rays and tests and they said I needed a huge operation. But they didn't have the capacity to do the operation.

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Recovering after three surgeries

Afterwards, I went to a private doctor. He said it was a massive operation and it would cost 2 million IQD ($USD 1,664). My economic situation was bad at the time and we had small children.

My neighbours came together and raised the money for my operation. I did it in a private hospital. They inserted an internal fixation.

After the operation I went home for six months. I still had pain and it was increasing. Eventually it was so unbearable that I couldn't stand it anymore.

"It's been really hard for me. But thankfully the hardest part has passed now that I am here.”
NashwanMSF patient

But I didn't have any money. The wound started opening and fluids started coming out of it. So I went to the general hospital. 

The general hospital referred me to the MSF post-operative care facility and I arrived on 11 April 2018. I was one of the first patients. Since I came here I have had three surgeries.

Nashwan, 42, sits in his hospital bed in Mosul, northern Iraq.

First, they opened the wound and cleaned it. They were concerned about all the fluid coming out, so they did some tests. They took a sample from the wound and they prescribed a certain type of drug for me to take.

Life has been really hard. My injury has had a negative impact on my life – my family, the way I interact with my kids. I can’t play with them. I can't work and we haven’t had an income.

I've been really depressed and I cannot talk to people. Even to go to the bathroom, I need someone with me. And I need the crutches to go everywhere. It's been really hard for me. But thankfully the hardest part has passed now that I am here.”

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