Submitted by Matt Green
In the summer of 2017, I took a short-term position as a combat trauma instructor in Kurdistan through a British NGO and eventually became a nurse practitioner. As waves of Kurdish refugees fled from Daesh in Syria, I started to feel an obligation to do something—as many U.S. service members did.
I soon found myself in Erbil and was eventually traveling along the outskirts of Mosul. It was anticipated that Daesh would have been routed from the city by the time we got there, but half the city was still under their control. Several kilometers north of the city, my small group of British and American medics set up a small school in what used to be some law firm offices. But somehow, after our arrival the night before, word had spread through the city that a hospital was being set up. In the early morning hours, as my group began opening up the school, we started to absorb wave after wave of wounded civilians. Daesh snipers were targeting those running from the battle. Although my crew had limited trauma supplies, we did our best to treat the wounded. Both Kurdish and non-Kurdish citizens united and helped in whatever way they could. The onslaught was terrible and we could see how desperate the people were to get away from these fanatical cowards—cowards who shoot children in the back.
By the next day we were on the road again heading further north into Kurdistan, nearly up to the Turkish border. We stopped at several refugee camps housing Syrian Kurds who—although they had nothing—were happy to be alive and receive what little help we could offer. It was during this month of sleeping on the ground and going from city to city and village to village that I learned and experienced true Kurdish hospitality. I have been face-to-face with people in that region of the world who don’t have any idea what freedom is, don’t know what to do with it, and want to keep others from having it. The Kurds are an exception to this. They are freedom-loving. We held very similar values with family, with country, with religion, and even some culture. And despite one incident where I was tricked into eating a scorpion (because I was told all “real Kurdish men” do), I left with the fondest memories of the Kurdish people. I will continue to look for opportunities to help and, if possible, to return again.