Aliyah Khalaf Saleh 62 and also known as Umm Qusay, an Iraqi brave woman was recently awarded as the international woman of Courage at US State Department. She received an award from the first Lady Melania Trump for her brave story.
She lost her husband, a son and a nephew in the war that surrounded northern Iraq in 2014. In June 2014, the militants defeated hundreds of Shite Muslims workers from the nearby Speicher military base.
When a group of military cadets fled to her community near Tikrit to escape from ISIS, she risked her life to save all of them.
Aliya while talking to AFP said, A small group of young men tried to escape by crossing a river, they were moving from Camp Speicher to Baghdad when they came upon ISIS, killing their comrades.
The young militant retreated the area of 20 kilometers. She took them in her house. Among them were Kurd and Iraqi Muslims, Yezidis and Christians.
She recalled that she gave them some ladies clothes and hid them in the women’s quarter on her farm while some dug holes in the forest to hid themselves.
She said ISIS fighters were hunting for the workers, so she obtained university identity cards for some of them and gave them local names. She also taught the Shiite Muslims to pray like Sunni in order to save themselves from the sectarian fears.
She said, over five months, I smuggled them to safety in Kurdish-held Kirkuk, hiding them in trucks surrounded by female relatives because the terrorists did not bother the women.
Ms. Aliya saved 58 young men to safe places before the ISIS group’s spies could detect what she had done.
She fled on foot through the dark night along with her surviving sons, their wives and children, they were 25 members of the family who remained emigrant and spent a year living in one single room before Iraqi government forces recaptured their home and they could return.
Now, the government is successful, the ISIS is on the run and Ms. Aliyah’s bravery and love have made her a beacon of hope.
She has received a national medal as well as a high Shiite religious honor and was again honored by Melania Trump alongside nine other brave women.
Ms. Aliya recalled that she thinks if God took my husband, my son, and my nephew, He gave me these young men to support me. She said many young men returned to thank her, they usually visit her and she also pays a visit to them.
Melania Trump said, “In recognizing the International Women of Courage, we stand here for the right and bring out such stories so we can teach all young women and girls all over the world to understand what it means to have the courage.
It was a long way from the life of an Iraqi woman who was married at the age of 13 and lived through dictatorship and terror where people have forgotten to smile.
Before the ceremony, Ms.Aliya said, “I was hesitating to come here and was also so tired, but I feel much better now.”
“People smile at me in the street and I felt like it regenerated me and made me feel safe and secure,” she added.
Source: Al Arabiya