The (nearly) dead Peshmerga and the car accident responsible.

Dukan/ Erbil Pass. November, 2010. Driving. Curvy roads. Northern Iraq.  Mountain pass.  Small car. SUV. No space. IMPACT. Off the road. No seatbelt. Unconscious. Gasoline. Cigarette. Fire? Brain damage!?

Yes and no. It’s been a pretty intense semester thus far. My teaching schedule has been keeping me incredibly busy. On top of that I’m taking MBA classes in the evenings. I also teach a photography elective and lead the photography club. Not to mention freelance photography outside of the university. Last on the list is a social life…

When the opportunity to get out of Suli and check out the Yezidi religion of Northern Iraq (more posts coming soon) I jumped at the chance. I’ve been on more than a dozen trips over my year and a bit here, and I’m more or less accustomed to the steep slope of the road, the switchbacks and the non-Western idea of spacing between the cars. The roads are rougher in Nicaragua, the drivers are drunker in Mongolia, no worries. Not quite.

In one of the many steep switchbacks in the craggy mountains between Dukan and Erbil, a speedily driving Peshmerga soldier ends up near death. On account of (possibly drunk) reckless driving he was fishtailing his tiny car back and forth between a particularly sharp turn and ended up being side-swiped by a beefy Land Cruiser. The SUV knocked him off the road, he was knocked unconscious and his car was smashed between a boulder and the SUV. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was covered in blood as he was knocked out cold against the windshield.

Onlookers quickly sprang into action. The car I was riding in smashed into the rear of the Land Cruiser and after assessing our own meager injuries, we staggered out of the car and spotted the unconscious Peshmerga in his downed car. Gasoline is flowing out of the SUV and the driver’s-side door is smashed to oblivion. A number of sharwaal (Kurdish baggy pants) clad locals and I try to pry him out his door to no avail and I when I notice the locked passenger side door. I wedge my fingers into the window and wrench at the frame with all my might until it gives enough to let  a Kurdish man reach inside to unlock the door.

A man beside me extinguishes his lit cigarette and we pull the unconscious Peshmerga soldier out of the gasoline drenched vehicle. A few bulky men jump in and pry him out of his seat and into the open as I try to stabilize his neck. He flops around like a rag-doll but we manage to drag him to the side of the car and to the side of the street. A man wipes the blood from his face and we toss him in the first non-wrecked car with an open seat to drop him off at the first hospital.

My students and I gather our wits, realize we just have bruised knees, headaches and slightly bloody elbows and we head toward the Northern Iraqi town of Bashiqa on the outskirts of Mosul.  After a few more steep switchbacks we see a Red Crescent van speeding past and the solemn students beside me and I smile, knowing that the man is well on his way to wellness, inshallah.


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