The New ‘Lioness’ of Iraqi Kurdistan
ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan – “The Lioness” is the title Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani gave to a woman who lost her three sons while defending their village of Khidir Jija last week against a large-scale attack by Islamic State militants.
Bayan Osman appeared on television soon after burying her sons, saying that while she had lost three sons, she was ready to sacrifice her remaining three for her people.
Last week, Islamic State militants attacked Khidir Jija, which is located southwest of Erbil. The men of Bayan’s family took up arms and defended the village.
Nazim, 24, and father of a one-year-old girl, Azad, 18, and Barzan, 10, were killed while fighting Islamic State militants. A family source said Barzan, the youngest brother, was trying to deliver ammunition to Nazim when he was gunned down by a sniper.
The attack drew widespread condemnation from around the world and sent an alarming message to the international community that the war against ISIS is far from over.
“I offer my condolences to [Bayan Osman] whose three sons joined the martyrs after the terrorist attack last night,” Masoud Barzani, the former president of Kurdistan and the leader of ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), wrote in a statement. “I sincerely thank the lioness for her words which gave us the strength and morale to continue insisting on our nation’s cause.”
Footage and photographs from Khidir Jija showed the aftermath of the attack: windows shattered, concrete columns were taken down, and pools of blood on the ground. What was evident in the visual materials shared on social media is that the militants used heavy weaponry, including RPGs in the attack.
Eyewitnesses said there were more than 30 militants who surrounded the small village and kept it under fire for approximately one hour, starting at 22:00 (Erbil time).
Another one of Bayan’s sons, who survived the fierce confrontation with the militants, said ISIS militants were only 100 meters from them. He appeared in multiple interviews holding the blood-stained clothes of his brothers, mourning the death of almost half of his family.
The day after the attack, Masrour Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan’s prime minister, and son of Masoud Barzani, personally visited the family to deliver condolences and promised to do everything possible to make sure that such attacks will not happen again.
“Now that you are here, I put the clothes of my martyred brothers aside and I will embrace you,” the young man told Barzani, who broke into tears while mourning with the family.
On the frontlines near Makhmour, Masrour Barzani called for increased international support for Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State militants. Meanwhile, Barzani promised to do everything in his government’s power to prevent such tragedies from happening again.