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This Woman and Her Town Helped Save Some 850 People from ISIS | Once Upon a Time in Iraq

14 Jul 2020
In June of 2014, ISIS massacred an estimated 1,700 Iraqi military cadets who were in training at Camp Speicher, a former U.S. base near the city of Tikrit. That number would likely have been higher by hundreds were it not for one woman and her town, who worked together to save and shelter fleeing cadets.

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“I can hear a voice calling now that reminds me of them,” the woman, Um Qusay, says in the above excerpt from FRONTLINE’s new documentary "Once Upon a Time in Iraq." Gazing out on the same river she helped the cadets cross before hiding them in her home, she remembers hearing their cries: “Save us, save us. We are your brothers.”

She and others in her town of al Alam heeded their call. All told, she says, she and the people of al Alam helped save 850 men from Speicher.

“Of course we were afraid,” she says. But putting herself in danger to help the cadets was a risk was worth taking.

“The reason was that first of all, they are Iraqi,” Um Qusay says. “And secondly, I hated ISIS. Someone has to help and stand against them.”

Then, she offers a closing thought: “And without love, the whole world would be killing each other.”

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Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
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