Fifteen-year-old Zainab Haider should be sitting her end-of-term exams today. She once dreamed of becoming a doctor.
Now, as she stares listlessly from her hospital bed, that dream seems impossible.
Zainab’s tragedy is that her family home is in northern Iraq, close to the Syrian border. Their city, Tal Afar, was over-run by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS – last week.
In a rocket attack on the house where she was sleeping with her parents and five siblings, Zainab suffered crushing injuries to her legs, and was hit by shrapnel.
On Wednesday, she had both legs amputated. Her ten-year-old sister, Fadak, was killed, while her mother Amsha also lost both legs. Her 18-year-old brother Haider is in shock and has not spoken since the attack.
In the cluttered orthopaedic ward at Baghdad’s Al-Yarmouk Hospital, where the family were flown because of the severity of their injuries, Zainab’s father Mohamed reveals how he woke his six children and brother’s family at 2.30am last Monday after hearing shelling in his neighbourhood.
‘We are Shia Turkmen and we’ve lived in peace here all our lives,’ he said. ‘Suddenly there were two days of complete war and we had no way to escape from it.
‘I knew I had to do something, to move us all somewhere. I knew about the jihadist criminals and their cruelty. I knew they’d boasted of beheading people and capturing soldiers and executing them. I was in a panic, very afraid. All I knew is we could not stay to be slaughtered.
‘But when I brought us all into the courtyard, a rocket came in, hitting us all and demolishing my house.
‘My little daughter Fadak died in my arms. All around me, my wife and children were screaming.’
He added: ‘Nothing will ever be the same.
‘We have lost a child, our home and suffered injuries which will last a lifetime. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We want the world to help us stop the fighting.’
The Haider family believes many other civilians have been attacked in Tal Afar. Some 60 Turkmen prisoners in the city jail are said to have been slaughtered, while the UN has reported 150,000 people fleeing to other towns as refugees.
Aydm Beyath, Secretary-General of the Federation of Turkmeneli Associations, which represents the ethnic group, has called on Turkmen to take up arms against ISIS. If Mohamed Haider had remained in Tal Afar, he may have considered that call.
But here in a strange city far from home, he can only hope for aid to rescue him and his family.