Some might consider eight-year-old Iraqi Kurd Şerzat fortunate to have found a way out of an occupied homeland marked by sectarian conflict and insecurity.
But Şerzat owes his lucky break to an incurable disease. Born with bleeding and infected wounds on his body, Şerzat's condition was allegedly caused by chemicals released in a 1999 bombing of a weapons factory in Iraq.
He and his father, Haydar Hüseyin Essaw, stopped in İzmir a couple of months ago on their way to illegally entering Europe to seek treatment for Şerzat. They were arrested by military police before leaving Turkey.
The story is only one among the millions of tragedies from the ongoing war in Iraq. However, Şerzat and his father have made theirs a story that goes beyond the political on-goings of the Middle East. American doctors began treating Şerzat in Iraq before he and his father came to Turkey, but due to the volatility of the occupation, his treatment there could not be continued.
The Turkish Daily News met with Mehmet Yasin Mecdel, one of Şerzat's current doctors in Turkey. An Iraqi Turkmen, he learned of the death of his nephew in Iraq just minutes before the scheduled interview regarding Şerzat's medical situation. Speaking of the situation in Iraq, Macdel said, �that is the situation in our land. He was unable to continue the conversation beyond this reflection on the circumstances.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached out to help Şerzat just before the important visit to Turkey by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, who would promise during his stay to fight against the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Before Erdoğan's call, Şerzat was in the safe hands of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), communicating with the help of foundation officials who could do Kurdish-Turkish translation. A child's health does not recognize the limits of politics, but children like Şerzat continue to die everyday because of the situation in Iraq.
Hit the road for remedy
After receiving an official visa from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Şerzat's father, Essaw, came to Turkey to find a remedy for his son, leaving behind his wife and five children in Iraq. Finding treatment in Iraq with the on-going war had proved impossible. After being arrested in İzmir, Essaw came to Istanbul, where the İHH found him and Şerzat in a hotel. The İHH has been taking care of the child and his father after their failed attempt to go to Europe.
The child was in extremely bad condition before we brought him to the hospital, said Adem Demir, the media advisor of the İHH. He was itching all the time and the wounds would bleed every time he itched.
Like the İHH employees who reached the father a couple of hours before, Prime Minister Erdoğan wanted to contact Essaw after learning of the situation.
The Prime Minister demanded that Şerzat's treatment be covered, said Demir. The foundation was also ready to finance the treatment and could continue offering help to the father and child in the future, Demir emphasized.
Prime Minister Erdoğan also promised to bring the rest of family to Turkey if necessary.
No chance of return
Şerzat's father was happy that his son's treatment has begun in a private hospital in Istanbul. Essaw and his wife have been struggling to no avail to treat Şerzat's wounds since his birth, he said.
I cannot believe this I feel like I am living in a dream, said Essaw in Kurdish. Turkey is a beautiful country, he declared, describing people who stopped him in the street with Şerzat to ask if they needed anything and give money for Şerzat.
Last Mod: 12 Ağustos 2007, 16:34
In response to TDN's question of whether he would like to return to Iraq once Şerzat recovers, Essaw responded by saying he could not return because of the sectarian conflict. I would be killed if I return, he said. The Arab fighters would realize that I am a Kurd, even though I can speak Arabic. He added that many people in his situation had been killed for the same reason.
Şerzat's mother and siblings stay with Essaw's parents in a village near Mosul. I will be happier if my children come here, Essaw said.
A genetic disease
Şerzat's disease is genetic and cannot be completely cured. He will need care for his whole life. Doctors indicated that they will consult test results to determine whether the disease is a result of the 1999 bombing of a chemical weapons factory. They may need to conduct tests on Şerzat's mother to confirm the results.