FOR 97-year-old Shami Eso, her escape from the terrors of ISIS in Iraq is complete as she makes her new home in Brisbane.
It’s almost five years since she and her family fled as ISIS terrorists drew close to their home town of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq.
She could never have imagined she would end up on the other side of the world – never to see her home again.
Newly arrived in Bracken Ridge, on Brisbane’s northern outskirts, Shami gives thanks to God that she is reunited with family.
Two of her sons were already waiting for her – Jameel in Bracken Ridge and Amer in Melbourne – and she’s arrived in Australia with another son Basim and his wife Ekhlas.
Jameel translates her message of sheer elation, and says she is extremely happy “with the power of God”.
“We do not need anything other than the mercy of God to keep us together,” she said through Jameel.
“We pray to God to give us good health and peace for Australia and all the world.
“I thank the Australian Government for all its help (for me) to arrive here …”
Then she broke into spontaneous song with a special prayer – louder and with more gusto than you’d expect from a 97-year-old.
“This is a prayer for our father, the first human, Adam, and God’s creation of Eve to help him in his life,” Jameel said.
“This is a very, very old, very old Syrianic tone …”
Perhaps Shami sings of her abiding faith in God’s eternal presence from before the beginning of time, and still.
Jameel tells the story of how the family fled from Qaraqosh, a town where everyone was Catholic.
His whole extended family left at the same time – “the same time, the same day, the same night, on August 8, 2014”.
They set off on foot to head for Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, about 60km away.
“After I stayed about one month in Kurdistan (initially in a church hall), then I and my brother Amer travelled to Jordan, on September 11, 2014,” Jameel said.
“My family and the family of Amer travelled to Jordan and lived in a church hall in Naoor.
“We stayed there for two years and five months.”
That was when Jameel, his wife Sameerah and three of their four children came to Brisbane as refugees.
Amer and his family moved to Melbourne at the same time.
Jameel’s son Dan and Basim’s son Martin remain in Lebanon, hoping to be reunited with the rest of the family.
Jameel said Shami and Basim “arrived in Lebanon on February 8, 2016, and my son with him but (Basim’s) son Martin arrived in Lebanon before that, on December 23, 2014”.
And how does he so easily remember all these dates?
“Because I write many applications about coming here, from all our families … for my son, for his son, for my brother …,” he said.
Basim was reluctant to leave Kurdistan when his brothers did because he had hopes of returning to Qaraqosh when the terror of ISIS had passed.
He had left behind a comfortable lifestyle including a thriving retail business, with large shops and more than $1 million in clothing, cosmetics and other goods.
“But then, after the liberation of Qaraqosh from ISIS, it appeared that his shops were gone, burned and damaged, and they stole everything in it, all the goods,” Basim said through Jameel.
“Then I decided to leave Iraq …
“And also his and Mum’s house was burned and my (Jameel’s) house was burned also. There is nothing left.”
Shami said ISIS had “burned all the churches in Qaraqosh – about seven or eight churches – and especially the big church of my area”.
“Until now it stays burned, black, without being rebuilt,” she said.
“It stays, for the world to see what happened because of ISIS.”
She used to go daily to that church to pray.
“My mum stayed in Kurdistan with my son – (she was) not encouraged to travel … (being) an old woman, … but now it’s no other way to stay or to return back to Iraq, because there is no good life there now because around our village or town of Qaraqosh there are many enemies,” Jameel said.
“Muslim enemies stay there and are waiting for another chance or opportunity to make the same campaign or war or to kill our people, and the Iraqi Government does not care for our people or our area …”
Jameel submitted three applications for Shami and Basim and his family to come to Australia as refugees and they were all rejected.
His fourth application was successful.
It was faith that kept him hoping.
“We trust in God. We trust … and Jesus who brought us here will continue his good with us. We also pray …” Jameel said.
Shami said: “God gives mercy to all the people for all the time forever.
“The mercy of God is big.”
Now their prayer is for the rest of the family to be reunited.
“We pray to be together with the rest of our families, like my son Dan and (Basim’s) son Martin, and other relatives who stayed in Jordan or Lebanon or Turkey,” Jameel said.
“We have our big sister (Jameela) waiting in Turkey, waiting for one country – waiting to come here or to America or to Germany …”
Jameel beams with joy when he remembers how happy he was on the day he was reunited with his mother and brother.
“Yes, (it was a) very happy day,” he said.
“It was my hope, big hope.
“And I have another hope, that my son and (Basim’s) son to be here in the near future.
“Our happiness will be complete.”