We did the Theresa moan then I said “well today is a celebration day for you”
“Why so” he said, scissors flying.
I am pretty vulnerable here I thought and it’s often not a good idea to bring up Syria in this place. All the barbers in this shop are Syrian, mostly Alawites and supporters of Assad. So I long ago discovered that as much as they all remained totally professionally polite, it was always a good idea not to say the wrong thing.
However today I felt a little brave so I answered with “Well, Mosul has fallen. You must be happy for that?”
Snip snip. I felt a pause for thought. “You mean those Daesh bastards you call so-called ISIS. They won’t give up! You’ll see. They will keep going”
Tread carefully. “Yes they will.” I said.
The clippers slipped up the nape of my neck. “I hate those bastards,” he said.
“I fought them,” he said.
“What happened?” A pause while he swapped clippers for scissors.
“So my father. He was the fighter. What a man!” And this is the story. I apologise for the absence of detail in some parts, I didn’t catch everything he said and may have misheard some of it. Nevertheless here it is. And when I said to him, “You should write it,” he said, “What for? There are so many stories like this. So many people who have had and are having a much worse time. Nobody’s interested.”
I don’t agree.
A Snip of a Lad
I was brought up in a Kurdish village where my dad was the barber. His father was a barber. Going back generations, barbers. And the barbers in the village were like the wise ones. If there was an argument, or troubles, the barber would sort it out. Honestly, he was such a respected man there. He was like the mayor, the priest, the Imam, all together. Such a wise man. I loved my dad.
I didn’t like school. So as soon as I could, I got trained by dad and became a barber too! Honestly what a good teacher he was. He was a master of the hair, he could make the old look young and the young look beautiful. And he passed that to me. My scissors were my instrument, I could play anything with these, like a brilliant musician plays his instrument.
We were very happy there even though we had the problem of not really having our own state, and my Father always said he lived for the day when the Kurdish flag would be waving above our village. And thanks God, he did see that just two weeks before he died.
Then came the battles with Daesh. They seemed to decide they wanted everything for their stupid Caliphate, every land you could see, even Kurdistan where we lived in our mountains and our villages. Killing, stealing, raping the women, enslaving the people. Murderers, thieves, using religion as their excuse. So our YPG fought them bitterly and my father and me, and my brothers, we joined them and with the men of the village we fought those bastards.
They attacked again and again and one day they were overwhelming us. And that was when I saw them blow off my father’s head, the top part just came off like an egg. And I was, I don’t know, ten meters away and I saw it happen. But thanks God, he did not suffer. It was me that suffered. And my mother and my village, and my brothers and my sister especially. But there were so many who were suffering. Bastards. They use the name of Allah but they have no God.
I must have got crazy for a while. I fought and fought and the men with me, and the women too – we have the best women fighters – until at last the Daesh retreated.
So there it was and that was when I couldn’t stand it any more and I decided to leave.
I tell you my friend there was no choice but walking. I walked over the mountains and whenever I came to a town or a village, my scissors made my food for me. And my shelter. They would line up, the men. I cut hair of soldiers, of shopkeepers, of everybody who could give me money or food. Even when I went into Turkey and they caught me with a whole crowd of Kurds and Yazidis fleeing, they put everybody into the prison and I could hear them bullying and torturing the people. But not me! When they found I could cut hair everybody, all the soldiers came and my scissors again they saved my life.
So somehow then I made my way to here, to London. I had no English! I had no money, nothing. And I saw this Italian barber, I went in and showed them my scissors and how good I am. They gave me a job bless them. So the customers I would show this catalogue of different style and they would point to what they wanted.
So eventually I learned English, and so here I am as you see me now. And my brothers and my sister they are here now in London, safe from the madness.
Saved by the scissors.
Just one story out of millions. It left me tearing up on the barber’s chair, thinking of the millions of stories, of the millions who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the madness of ISIS/Daesh. Yes, I have heard their side of the argument. It doesn’t work. There can never be any acceptable reason for murder, rape, slavery, rampant cruelty.
Well, wouldn’t it be good if the Barber was right. He said, “You know what? Good wins in the end. Sometimes it just takes longer. All we can do is hold on to the Good. Resist the lies. Be honest and honourable. And we will win.”
I hope so.