It was practically all that remained, apart from the sadness of two brothers, after a father suffering from mental health issues brutally burnt down his home and killed his wife and five of his children. The familicide occurred at a house in Mosul.
Hussein, a 12-year-old boy, and his 21-year old brother, were the only survivors of seven siblings.
“I can still hear the screaming of my brothers and sisters,” Hussein recalled emotionally to Niqash. “I wake up to remember my little brother Hassanain, who was not yet two years old, surrounded by fire. My sister Fatima’s body was consumed by flames while she was running in the room and screaming in pain.”
Hussein says his father threw stones at him and screamed “let them burn” as he tried to save his mother.
Brigadier Majid al-Abedi, the Najaf police chief, said the father confessed to the crime and was placed in custody.
“He suffers from psychological problems due to his poor living conditions and from epilepsy,” added the police spokesman.
“The father was suffering from mental disorders and he couldn’t integrate in society and with people,” Faysal Sadeq, a neighbour, told Niqash. “He used to sit all by himself for long hours and I think that his displacement from Tal Afar had a great impact on his psychological condition. Then his situation further deteriorated as a result of financial problems.”
The 12-year-old survivor recalled how his mother saved his life by giving hers. “My mother sacrificed her life to save me and I still feel her fingers pushing me out of the room with fire burning the edges of door,” remembered 12-year-old Hussein. He recalls his father throwing petrol to amplify the flames as he asked him to stop.
By the time Hussein was able to alert Nouri Hussein Ali, his 21-year-old brother and the eldest son – who lived in a room next door – the other family members were already trapped in the flames, explains Ali. Ali confirmed that the father had been suffering from epilepsy.
Ali told Niqash how the family had been displaced from Tal Afar, a town 75 kilometres west of Mosul, by ISIS in 2014.
Nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee from the western side of Mosul because of ISIS’ former occupation of the city, according to UNHCR data.
“This is considered an abnormal case as this person had completely lost hope with his inability to provide his family with a decent life,” Dr. Mounira Muhamma, a psychologist told Niqash.
She added that the government is partly responsible because it hasn’t been able to provide displaced people, who were forced to leave their cities, with descent living conditions.
“My only hope is to return back to our ageing house, which we abandoned in Tal Afar in 2014 to ISIS,” says Nouri Hussein Ali, now faced with the responsibility of raising his 12-year-old brother.