“She is encouraging her ‘sons’ to go out and become martyrs and die in battle…”
In the morning, Tal Afar was strangely quiet except for the continuous buzzing of the unmanned Predators overhead. The Apaches were gone and the resistance was licking its wounds. It was reported that 50 mujahedeen had been killed and another 120 wounded. The worst news of all was that the Emir had been killed, the target of a Predator missile that had successfully destroyed his Land Rover. While his followers celebrated his martyrdom, the Emir’s death left a power vacuum among the mujahedeen.
Around mid-morning, a group of gunmen arrived at the workshop to take us away. Zeynep pleaded with them in Turkish that we were to go free, but it was to no avail.“We received no such instruction,” said the man who now appeared to be in charge. “You are spies.”This time they were extremely rough in applying my blindfold. It was tied so tight I could sense losing blood circulation in my brain. They pushed and prodded me blindly towards a car and then deliberately bashed my head against the doorframe. “Jewish pig!” spat one of the guards.
Also read: Inside Iraq: Five Days in Hell-I
At the fourth house, which smelled like some sort of farm complex, I was once again rushed through doorways and then down into a cellar. In addition to the blindfold they placed a hood over my head and I felt I was suffocating in the heat and dust. I could feel the fear well up inside me as one of the gunmen forced me onto a mat and placed the barrel of a Kalashnikov against my neck. “Don’t speak, Don’t move.”
Another group of men entered the cellar and began questioning Zeynep as to our identity. She told them of the Emir’s promise, and advised them that our papers, ID and passports were all at the first house. Finally, we were allowed to remove the hoods while the mujahedeen went to check out our story. At this point I realized that there was another prisoner in the room with us. He was an Iraqi from Mosul, also accused of spying. He was not allowed to remove his hood.Throughout the rest of the morning, there was plenty of activity in the resistance bunker. About thirty or so fighters were busy transferring stockpiles of RPGs and explosives. In addition to the gruff male voices, we could hear an elderly woman shouting encouragement to the men. “They call her mother” whispered Zeynep. “She is encouraging her ‘sons’ to go out and become martyrs and die in battle. Can you believe it?”Our previous interrogator returned to our makeshift cell to advise us that our bags, cameras, and identity papers were now buried in a heap of rubble: The first house had been destroyed by a precision-guided bomb. With no proof of our nationality or profession, a heated debate among the fighters soon erupted outside in the corridor.
“Oh my god theyre going to shoot us!”
Listening to their conversation, Zeynep suddenly gasped: “Oh my god they’re going to shoot us!” I fought to suppress the panic that I felt. It was then the other prisoner spoke for the first time. In good English he said, “Are you sure?”