In 2004 I lived on top of a mountain in Northern Iraq, outside of a town called As’Sherqat, on a patrol base which was the main entrance of an old Iraqi weapons depot. There was a tribe of Bedouin herders who lived in these beautiful tents in the valley below our patrol base. There were also Kurds who were living on our patrol base.
Our mission was to patrol MSR Tampa between Bayji and Mosul, so that’s what we did for the most part. There were also Blackwater contractors there who would blow up tons of weapons, bombs and ammo left over in the bunkers.
It was a quiet place most of the time. Nights and skies that you wouldn’t believe. A deep blue sky with stars I had never seen before. Mountains broke the skyline like black teeth of the earth, taking a bite out of the stars. In the valley you could see campfires around the Bedouin tents and a few stray lights far, far off in the distance. The silence was only interrupted by the sounds of yourself and maybe the wind. Brutally cold nights compared to the scorching days.
I didn’t interact with the locals as much as I wished I could. It was a complicated situation then. I was a Soldier, and the only healthcare provider for 68 other soldiers on that mountain, so I was very busy. I did get to interact with them occasionally as a healthcare provider, and even ate a feast with them as a guest once. I often wonder what ever happened to those Kurds and Bedouins.
With what is happening to the Yezidi and Kurdish people, I find myself remembering more and more how fucking amazingly beautiful those mountains are, and then the people.
And then regret. And then sadness.