Muhanned Sulaiman, Iraq “My tongue was cut off to stop me talking”

Thirty-eight-year-old Muhanned Sulaiman, says he cannot forget the day insurgents cut off most of his tongue after he decided to stop working for them. With a wife and two children to support, he was scared, but he had grown tired of the daily grind of a dangerous occupation and wanted to find an alternative job to support his family.

He spoke with IRIN using hand signs and by writing on a piece of paper with the help of his wife, Hanan. He kept on sobbing during the interview as he recollected how terrible his days as an insurgent were, and how difficult it was for doctors to stop his bleeding.

“I was working as an insurgent for two years. I was forced to do that after they threatened my family. I didn’t have any choice… each day I was becoming more exhausted and scared.

“I never helped the insurgents kill people. My job was to help them draw maps and search the internet for military sites using my English, as I’m an English graduate and worked for a long time as a translator in the old Ministry of Information and Tourism. The insurgents wanted me to research information which might help them in their work.

Paid research work

“For the two years I was with the insurgents they paid me for doing my job. It was good money - about US$1,000 a month - but I couldn’t stand it any more. What prevented me from being killed or forced to carry a gun to fight US troops was the friendships I made in my job.

''I never helped the insurgents kill people. My job was to help them draw maps and search the internet for military sites.''

“Two months ago I told the insurgent leaders that I was sick and couldn’t continue my work. To start with they didn’t appear surprised or shocked.

“Two days later they came to my home in Dora district, Baghdad, and drove me to a house near Gazeliyah neighbourhood, also in Baghdad. On our way there, they didn’t say a word to me. When we arrived at the house, the worst moments of my life began.

“Three strong men held me down and another opened my month and pulled out my tongue and in seconds they had cut it off. Oh my God, I never felt such pain. After those dreadful moments, they put a lot of cotton into my mouth and two men drove me to a nearby hospital. I tried to scream but couldn’t.

“They told a doctor that I had had an accident and my tongue needed urgent surgery. They took me directly to the surgery. I woke up hours later to find my wife beside me crying and then I realised that I couldn’t speak any more.

Parcel

“Three days later I received a small parcel. My nine-year-old boy Muhammad and my seven-year-old daughter Rand, brought it to me and when I opened it, I found my tongue inside with a note which said they had been forced to do what they did, and that `my tongue was cut off to stop me from speaking too much’ and I should thank God that I was not killed.

“A week ago I found a local NGO which has offered their help. I will soon travel to Jordan for some treatment and follow-up phonological exercises which might help me regain some sound while speaking. My family will follow me and we have plans to move to Syria and never return to this country again.

“Our life has been destroyed by the insurgents but I hope there is still time to start a new life even without a tongue.”

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