IRAQ – “The Virgin saved us” – Christian students hid from IS under the bed
Christian students who fled from Kirkuk (Iraq) when it was recently attacked by Islamic State militants relate the moving details of their escape. One said “Every night during the past year I had nightmares about the possibility that Islamic State would invade our house. Yesterday it came true.”
A group of IS fighters entered the front garden of the house which is rented as accommodation for Christian female university students. Monally, one of the Christian students who were pursuing their studies despite the war thanks to a programme organised by the Catholic Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, explained how it was a miracle they were not found by the terrorists:
“We were with the Islamic State in the same room. They sat on the beds and did not know that we were hidden underneath” explains Monally. “The Virgin Mary made them blind” concludes Monally, who was responsible for the house in which seven students lived.
After spending all day without water or electricity inside the house, the students were very frightened. Eventually, they managed to call a Christian displaced person from Bahzany, who was able to evacuate them to another house and then to the Chaldean Bishopric Centre. Then all the Christian and Yezidi university students in the area were contacted by phone and gathered in the Bishopric Centre.
Mgr Thomas Mirkis, Archbishop of Kirkuk and Auxiliary Bishop of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, reveals how the evacuation of the students took place in several phases. “It is surprising that seven students spent 18 hours under beds without moving,” said the Chaldean archbishop. At the moment there is a curfew and civilians are not allowed to move in the streets. However, under cover of darkness and “despite the snipers shooting at us,” rescuers managed to bring 14 students to a safe place that night.
After the bishops from Kirkuk and Erbil made contact with the security authorities, the students were evacuated and transported safely to Erbil. The next day, in a similar way, another 7 students were removed from Kirkuk and taken to Erbil. “In the dark of night, although the intensity of gun fire was like rain, we were able to save them all” says Mgr Mirkis.
In Erbil, the students were received and welcomed by Syriac Orthodox Bishop Mar Niqademos Sharaf and Syriac Catholic Bishop Mar Petros Moshi. Mgr Mirkis visited the students where they were staying in Erbil.