• Aryan Ali-murad

Day 1: What we find

Updated: Sep 15

A short story series about a couple living in Kurdistan in 1996.


We start our story on a day now called 'the August 31st betrayal'. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has invited Saddam Hussain into the city of Hewlêr, and the Kurdish parliament building has just been given to Saddam's army to use as headquarters.


The city is placed on military lock down, and tension in the home is rising.


Day 1


Zana sat alone on the floor of his garage. A handgun lay in between his outstretched legs. He picked up the gun and held it to the side of his head.


The gun clicked, It was empty.



Hebah returned home from work and placed her bag and keys on the table. Outside, men holding guns sitting in the beds of trucks drove by one after the other. On the kitchen counter she noticed an almost empty bottle of Arak. She walked into the garage and saw Zana holding the gun up to his head. They locked eyes and their gaze lingered. Neither said anything.


“Not today.” She said after a moment as she turned around and walked back into the house.


Wobbling up to his feet, Zana placed the gun into a toolbox, put it back on the shelf and followed Hebah inside. She stood in their kitchen, both hands resting on the counter top with her head down. Zana sat on the stool at the breakfast counter.

“It was empty” he said.

“They took the city today.”

“What?”

"The Iraqi military stormed the city today, Erbil is theirs now.”



Zana rose to his feet again and stumbled over to the television.

“Power’s out.” Hebah said, “Try the radio.”

He adjusted the antenna and tuned it to a station which blared out.


“--lieved that American forces will retaliate with what they call “Heavy force” against what may well be another genocidal attempt by Saddam Hussain against the Kurds. Even amidst apparent peace talks between the PUK and KDP in the U.S embassy of London, Iraqi forces aided by KDP fighters stormed and seized the city of Erbil in the early hours of today, August 31st.”

“Fuck.”

“The military said to stay inside.”

“Where are the kids?”

“At your dad’s house, they have to stay there for now.”

“And what happens if I wanna go outside? What are those fucks gonna do?”

“They’ll shoot you. Though I suppose you wouldn’t mind that."

“It was empty. How long is this lock down gonna last?”

“I don’t know. A day, a few days, no one knows.”

“Well what are we gonna do for food?”



Zana glanced over to the almost empty bottle of Arak.



“The military will be delivering a box of supplies to houses tomorrow to keep us going for now but I don’t think they’ll be bringing what you’re hoping for.”


She stared at him and saw the picture of anxiety painted across his face.


“I want us to move to America.” Hebah said.

“What do you mean? Why?”

“What do you mean ‘What do I mean’? Aren’t you seeing what's happening, Zana?”

“We’ll be fine.”

“Fine isn’t fucking good enough. You think all I want for our kids lives is fine? And what about our life, Zana?”

He laughed. “Tell me, what do you want to do with your life?”


She stared at him silently for a moment, like she did in the garage. “It’d be quicker to tell you the things that I don’t want to do.”

He looked down.


“Why do you want to kill yourself?”

“I don’t, I wasn’t... It was empty, it will always be empty.”

“How reassuring.”



About the author: Aryan Ali-murad is a creative writer, and you can follow him on IG here


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