The Woman Who Didn’t Let Go: Reunited with Eman

10 October 2018

Mosul, Iraq

Eman with Suriya (front left) and some of her siblings. Eman needs surgery to walk again.
Eman with Suriya (front left) and some of her siblings. Eman needs surgery to walk again.

Dear friends,

God gave us a miracle a few days ago: we found the lady we had rescued when we dragged her from an ISIS-controlled street more than a year ago. After the rescue, on 3 June 2017, we had brought her immediately to an Iraqi casualty collection point (CCP) to receive care. We hadn’t seen her since then, didn’t know if she had survived and have been praying and looking for her for more than a year.

Last week, on Oct. 1 – which was also my son Peter’s birthday – our team was in Mosul again, following up with others we had rescued, and we prayed again to find her. Chris Sinclair, who is finishing up an FBR documentary, was with us so we decided to revisit the rescue site at the destroyed Pepsi factory where ISIS had gunned down civilians who were trying to flee.

Background

On 2 June 2017, with the help of an Iraqi tank and coalition forces, we rescued a little girl, Demoa, and one man who were trapped behind ISIS lines near a destroyed Pepsi factory. This location had become a funnel for civilians trying to escape ISIS’s last stronghold and it became a killing field for ISIS snipers overwatching the area.

We thought those two were the only survivors, but the next morning a young woman named Khofran was able to make a phone call from where she was trapped.  She communicated she was inside the Pepsi factory and had been shot twice and badly wounded. She also said there were two children, a woman, and a man still alive near her. Over 150 people had been trapped and shot by ISIS over the last five days – men, women, children, babies, old men in wheelchairs, and crippled grandmothers. It seemed only five remained alive.

An Iraqi police private named Zuhair brought us word of Khofran’s call for help – after seeing the rescue of Demoa the previous day, he trusted we would help save these last survivors. We prayed, agreed, and started looking for a way to do it. Our rescue team was Toh, Zau, Sky, myself, and three Iraqi police led by Private Zuhair; Eliya, Monkey, Dlo, Noelle and Sahale were near us across the street in support, while Hosannah, Karen, Suu, Pete, Zeb, and Maddie went back and forth to evacuate casualties to the CCP.

ISIS kept shooting all day down the streets and at any approaches to where Khofran and the other survivors were hiding. As we began to cross the ISIS-controlled street to the best approach point, the Iraqi Army vehicle in front of us was destroyed by an ISIS rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and 23mm cannon. Our Humvee was hit by gunfire multiple times, but not crippled. We thanked Jesus and kept driving through the ISIS fire.

The day before, the U.S. military had helped us by dropping smoke to screen our movements from ISIS. For this mission, though, we had no smoke and soon no vehicles, as we had to go on foot into the ruined factory where the survivors were. ISIS was on three sides of the factory and only 20 meters away in one area. As we walked through, we could hear their voices. I prayed in Jesus’ name that ISIS could not see, hear, or stop us and that Satan and his demons could not stop us. I said, “And if you, Satan, do not like my prayer, talk to Jesus because we are going in behind Him.”

In the rubble we found a little girl named Suriya, a badly wounded man, a crippled boy, and Khofran. Outside on the street I could see over 50 corpses in one area alone, including a man slouched dead in his wheelchair. I saw no sign of life.

Carrying Eman's daughter, Suriya back through the Pepsi factory.
Carrying Eman’s daughter, Suriya back through the Pepsi factory.

Then, from that corpse-strewn street, we heard a cry. Thirty yards away a woman lay between three dead bodies behind a destroyed car – still alive. “Help me,” she cried weakly in Arabic. I could not believe it. Later we would find out she had been shot in the arm and had her leg broken by mortar shrapnel, and had laid for five days, in the heat, surrounded by the dead, flies swarming all around.

I prayed to Jesus for courage and a way to save her since she was in an open area covered by ISIS gunfire; then Zuhair and I held hands and I prayed again, in desperation, for God to help. Zuhair looked up from the prayer and pointed at loose wire hanging from a nearby wall.

He started ripping the wire out of the walls and I helped him and cut a long length. I tied the wires together and Zuhair told Suriya – who we found out later was the daughter of this woman – to run part of the way into the street and throw the wire to her. Zuhair thought Suriya was small and ISIS would only see her for a few seconds. She ran out a few steps, threw the wire and dashed back. ISIS shot twice but too late. The woman tied it around her wrist and we dragged her to us.

Eman, five days after being shot, as we drag her out of the ISIS controlled Pepsi factory on 3 June 2017.
Eman, five days after being shot, as we drag her out of the ISIS-controlled Pepsi factory on 3 June 2017.
Eman thanks us as she reaches us. We are all in wonder that she and we are alive.
Eman thanks us as she reaches us. We are all in wonder that she is alive.

After we had successfully pulled her out of the open street, we gathered up the other four people and began the long and difficult carry back out through the rubble, moving as fast as we could when we had to cover open ground. We got all five to the Humvees and drove back through another gauntlet of ISIS fire. Our vehicle was hit again but continued driving. We learned the woman we had dragged off the street was named Eman.

Eman and Suriya safely out and being evacuated.
Eman and Suriya safely out and being evacuated.

I kept saying, “Thank you, Jesus,” and was full of wonder and joy that God had helped us rescue these people. The rescues, and the fear, were draining, but God refilled us and we felt the prayers of you all – your prayers gave us courage, faith, and I believe helped push back the forces of darkness so we could go on.

Reuniting

Since the battle for Mosul ended, we have been able to reunite with almost all the people we rescued, except for Eman and Suriya. We have prayed, and walked many streets and neighborhoods in Mosul, trying to find her. We heard different things – that she was dead or in hiding, and that her husband was dead. For sixteen months we could not find her.

On October 1, after checking up on Aisha, the “girl in the yellow dress,” who now has a prosthetic eye, we prayed again: “Lord, help us find Eman today, in Jesus’ name.”

We went again to the rescue site at the destroyed Pepsi factory so that Chris could film it. As we pulled up and climbed out of our vehicles, a man walked by carrying a small engine, a normal passerby. But he stopped and, with a light in his eye, asked: “Who are you and what are you doing?”

We told him, “We are visiting the place where we did a rescue last year.”

His eyes widened and he said, “That was my wife and daughter you rescued. We have been looking for you for over a year. Thank God!

Neither of us knew the other would be here on this day, at this time. In awe at what we knew God had done, we hugged and prayed and tears of gratitude came.

Eman’s husband, Mohammed, who found us when we visited the rescue site on 1 October 2018.
Eman’s husband, Mohammed, who found us when we visited the rescue site on 1 October 2018.

Right then, Rahab, who we and the Iraqi Army and fire department had rescued on 6 May 2017, arrived. We have been helping her and had coordinated for her and her family to meet us in Mosul for a follow-up. After talking, praying, and giving her more help, we followed Eman’s husband, whose name is Mohammad, to their house.

We walked inside and there was Eman, sitting on the floor on a thin mattress, still too injured to stand but smiling and with peace in her eyes. They called in Suriya, who was outside playing. I knelt down and hugged them both. It was a beautiful reunion.

Eman told us how much of a miracle it was to her to be alive. She had thought she was dreaming when we came and rescued her off the street by the factory. Now she is pregnant but cannot walk; she kept telling us how wonderful her husband is and how he is caring for her and their five children.

Together they told us of that day: he had been ahead of her helping four of their children flee, when a mortar barrage and ISIS gunfire separated them. After realizing they were separated he knew he could not stop and go back, but had to save the children still with him. In the week following his escape, he had searched every hospital and displaced persons camp without success. He started to think his wife and daughter were dead. He told us of the joy they all felt when he finally found them alive. We gave Eman, Suriya and Mohammad medals for bravery and being wounded, and also funds to help them.

Eman has not been able to walk since mortar shrapnel broke her hip; she still has an ISIS sniper bullet lodged in her arm. We told her we would help her and that many people were praying for her and would help her too. We are praying for funds for the surgery Eman needs, and full healing in Jesus’ name.

Eman with her family and our team in Mosul on 1 October 2018.
Eman with her family and our team in Mosul on 1 October 2018.