Search for Freedom: Ayad Klanm

By David Hovde

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In 2007 Ayad Klanm lived with his family in a neighborhood of Baghdad where most of his neighbors were Shia. Many were members of the Mahdi Army, a Shia militia formed by Muqtada al-Sadr. Because Ayad was Christian some of his neighbors believed he worked with the Americans although he never had. One day as American troops drove down his street in their vehicles Ayad was outside his house and greeted them. Some of his neighbors asked him why he did that and said it proved that he worked with the Americans. Ayad responded that he greeted them because they were human beings. Ayad thought it strange that they would let their children talk to the American troops, but they would not allow him to. They told him that if they ever saw him talk to the Americans again they would cut off his head. After that Ayad believes people began to monitor his family. When his children would go to their relatives, some of his neighbors would tell him they knew they were there.

Someone put an explosive outside Ayad’s family’s front gate that detonated late one night at 11pm as Ayad’s four-year-old daughter, Maryam, and her aunt went outside the front door. The explosion injured Maryam’s right leg from the knee down, tearing off the skin. The family drove her immediately to the government hospital. The doctor was not there that night so they waited until the day hours. When the doctor saw her injury he said that he could not do surgery for her because if he did the Mahdi Army would kill him when he went outside the hospital. The doctor advised them to take her to the clinic or a private hospital. Ayad told him that they did not have money to pay for surgery at a private hospital. The doctor said that would not be a problem that they should take her there and that they would do the surgery. An hour later they arrived at the private hospital. The doctor there said they would do their best and the rest was up to the gods. After two hours of surgery the doctor came out to talk with the family. He said it was like a miracle. He put a rod in her leg during the surgery, but he did not know how the surgery went as well as it did.

When the family and relatives at the hospital learned that the surgery cost more than they were able to pay, they asked the doctor to reduce the cost. The doctor agreed to reduce the cost greatly, but they still did not have enough money to pay. Maryam had to go to the doctor twice a week after that and every time they changed her cast there was an additional cost. Ayad contacted his sister in Sweden who sent money to help.

Ayad knew who planted the explosive outside their house. He talked to the man, who was Shia and a member of the Mahdi Army. The man said he did not put the explosive there because of Ayad’s family, but because of the Americans. He said he wanted it to explode on the Americans who passed by on the street. When Ayad asked him if he knew what happened to his daughter, the man became angry and said that if Ayad wanted to talk anymore about this he would kill him and his family. Ayad did not talk to him anymore after that.

Ayad and his family moved from Baghdad to Sulaimaniya in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 2007. They feel safer but Ayad does not have a job, has health problems, and they only have enough money for food. Maryam needs another surgery that is complex and cannot be done in Iraq but only in Germany. Ayad and his family desperately want to find asylum in another country.