All it took was a glimpse of the old woman's gold cross hanging from her neck -- evidence that she was a Christian -- and the savages tore it from her and beat her with the butts of their rifles. Yet these Christian women, now in a refugee camp, were lucky because the jihadists didn't kill them as they have thousands of other Christians in Iraq.
By Nasir Ali
TELESKOF, Nineveh Plains – Since the entire 4,000 population left Teleskof seven months ago to flee an Islamic State (ISIS) advance across Iraq, two lone Christian women in their 60s remain the only residents of this ghost town east of Mosul.
“When ISIS came all the people of our city fled, but I didn’t have any family or relatives and I wasn’t able to run so I stayed here,” said Sarya Matto, one of the two women now living in a tiny room with no electricity or services.
“I had a friend left here like me and when I found out the two of us got into a room, closed the doors and remained quiet.”
Matto and her companion Madi Salim say that 10 days into their hiding ISIS militants came knocking on their door.
“Though our house was far from the city center, 10 days later we heard human voices,” said Sarya. “Then they knocked on our door. They were speaking Arabic. We didn’t open the door but they broke it down and came in. They were three, wearing long beards. They asked us for money but we didn’t have any. They searched the house, then one of them saw my gold cross necklace and tore it from my neck.”
Matto recalled her ordeal with tearful eyes, saying she was trembling with fear the moment she faced the three militants.
“One of them said we should kill them, the other said ‘why waste our bullets,’” recalled Sarya. “Then they beat us with their rifle butts and left.”
Matto said that the ISIS advance on the town was so terrifying that everyone fled in haste and no one helped she and Salim flee. Without relatives or immediate family, their best bet was to stay and hide.
Matto said that after 15 days of hiding in the dark room she and her friend heard men speaking Kurdish outside, and they figured it was the Peshmerga.
“We immediately opened the door and we cried a lot when we saw them,” said Matto, remembering the evening at the end of August when the Kurdish Peshmerga recaptured Teleskof from ISIS. “They helped us. They brought us food and water.”
The tiny house where they remain is still dark and cold, without running water or electricity.
Even since Teleskof was liberated no one has dared return, because the town is too close to daily battles with ISIS. The entire population that fled the ISIS onslaught settled in the Kurdish province of Duhok.
“No one in the world has done to anyone what ISIS did to us,” said Matto, referring to the plight of tens of thousands of Christians killed, enslaved or driven from their homes by ISIS.
“These women have no one,” said Sharif Muhsin, a Peshmerga soldier who first found them in August. “When we got here, we found them very weak and emaciated.”
Mohsin said that a few people who claimed to be relatives have since come to Teleskof to visit the women, “but no one has come to take them away.”