Mohammed's Journey - a child's story of survival
In a remarkable new series of books that give voice to the experiences of children fleeing conflict, a young client from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (now Freedom from Torture) describes his journey from Iraq to the UK.
‘Mohammed's Journey' tells the story of a young boy's experience of being uprooted by violence and his subsequent experiences of learning to coping with fear, loss and trauma. Mohammed was six years old when he and his mother fled from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Born in Kirkuk, Mohammed recalls an atmosphere of fear in his early childhood. The son of Kurdish parents, his family suffered persecution at the hands of the Iraqi military. Yet he also describes how his family was able to provide him with a semblance of normality and a stable and happy childhood.
This changed dramatically in October 2000 when Iraqi soldiers broke into his home, and attacked the entire family. The soldiers took Mohammed's father away and Mohammed never saw him again. Although his whereabouts remain unknown he is presumed to be dead. Mohammed and his mother eventually made it to the safety of the UK in 2000, but only after a perilous journey that saw them battling with hunger and destitution. Mohammed's story is emblematic of the experience of hundreds of children who are treated each year at the MF.
The emotional turmoil that children experience as a direct or indirect consequence of torture and organised violence can include pain, a profound sense of isolation, suicidal feelings and nightmares.
One of the objectives of the MF is to provide a stable and safe environment in which to treat children. Yet as Mohammed's story shows, the experience of dislocation and violence can remain with survivors long after they reach safety - in Mohammed's words: "I'm still afraid really, because, as they were taking my dad away, one of the soldiers turned to us and said, ‘We'll be coming back for you,' I can still see and hear them".
Mohammed's Journey, released on February 18 2009, is part of the Refugee Diaries series, which was written in close conjunction between the writers Annemarie Young and Anthony Robinson, and children's therapists at the MF. The book is published by Frances Lincoln Limited. http://www.franceslincoln.com/