New Plymouth man fears for his family in Iraq

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2014
Hama Khayat
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

THINKING OF HOME: Hama Khayat and wife Karen are happy their sons, Amed, 3, left and Ezan, 20 months, are safe in New Zealand, but they worry about family and friends in Iraq.

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Hama Khayat is physically in New Plymouth, but his mind is with his family on the edge of a deadly conflict half a world away in Iraq. War broke out in June when Islamic State jihadists began a major offensive against the Iraqi government.

The Islamic State has got to within 25km of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq, and are being held back by Kurdish fighters called the peshmerger.

Khayat's family live in Suleimaniyah, just 200km from Erbil, near the border with Iran.

"I feel like I'm supposed to be there. I'm not very happy here these days," he said.

Khayat lives in New Plymouth with his Kiwi wife Karen and their two sons, Amed, 3 and Ezan, 20 months.

"But if I was there I would be worried about my family, but not about myself."

His brother told him the family was all right, but were getting a bit worried because there was nowhere to go if they needed to get out, Khayat said.

"We had a bad experience in 1991 when Saddam [Hussein] attacked us. One million people, we all run to the mountains and they shoot us from the back. We have that experience in the back of our minds. Is it going to happen again?"

Iran wouldn't let them across the border, so they were stuck in the middle of nowhere, he said.

Khayat really started to worry when the Islamic State fighters attacked the Yazidi people, who are Kurdish, but have different beliefs.

"They're not Muslim or Christian. They are very nice and very peaceful people. They never fight. They're just living in peace in their place."

Khayat said no one knew what the Islamic State militants wanted.

"They just kill people. They don't have any strategy. They don't have any plan. I can't understand, what do you want?"

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- Taranaki Daily News

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