Mawda’s mother shows a picture of her two-year-old daughter during a press conference in Brussels on Monday. Photo: Thierry Roge/Belga/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – In search of a better life in Europe, Mawda’s father took his family on a difficult journey, but lost his two-year-old daughter to police gunfire in Belgium.
On the night of May 16, Belgian police opened fire on a vehicle carrying refugees near the city of Mons, killing Mawda Shamdin Ali, whose family is from the Kurdistan Region.
“We do have information that police fired on two vehicles. The one that Mawda was in was targeted, killing her,” Ari Jalal, head of the Kurdistan branch of the Iraqi Migrants Federation, told Rudaw.
Mawda died in an ambulance.
“The autopsy determined that the cause of death was a bullet that entered the cheek,” prosecutor Frederic Bariseau told reporters last week.
“We cannot exclude that this bullet came from a police officer’s gun,” he said, adding that police have opened an internal investigation.
All 30 people in the van – 26 adults and four children – were Kurds.
UK paper The Guardian reported that Belgian police believed the van was being driven by smugglers bringing migrants to the coast where they would be smuggled into trucks for a trip into the UK.
The prosecutor said police spotted the van during a routine patrol. After determining that the plates were fake, police approached the vehicle, but the driver drove off. A chase ensued and police called in reinforcements. The chase ended when police opened fire near Mons.
“Activists are attempting to stage a series of demonstrations to protest the act of the Belgian police,” Jalal said.
The Shamdin Ali family, like hundreds of Kurdish families, took the dangerous route to Europe in 2013. Mawda was born in Germany.
They did make it to the UK at one point. “They had stayed in the UK for six months, but since their daughter had born in Germany, they were deported to there by the British authorities,” Azad Ali, Mawda’s uncle, told Rudaw of his brother’s saga.
“They came back and stayed in Germany for a year and a half. They once again tried to return to the UK traveling through Belgium and France. When they arrived in Belgium, police fired on them,” Azad explained.
“We do not know why they were shot at. There were a number of migrants in the van, but the bullets hit only Mawda,” he added.
The police held Mawda’s mother and father for three hours after the incident, Azad said.
Shamdin's father explained to Rudaw that his son was a Peshmerga and left the Kurdistan Region for economic reasons.
“Six years ago, my son got married. God gave them a son. Shamdin was a Peshmerga from [Peshmerga Ministry’s] 70 Unit,” Ali Ahmed told Rudaw.
His son made the decision to leave Kurdistan because of economic hardship.
“I was paying the rent for his house. When he decided to go to Europe, I paid for the journey,” he added.
A Kurdistan Region organization that deals with migrants returning from Europe is following up on Mawda’s case.
“The incident is new and we do not have much information on it,” Sardar Abdullah, deputy head of the organization, told Rudaw.
“It is clear that migrants are badly treated and their conditions are very miserable in European countries, especially when their cases are rejected,” he added.
“We have the cases of five migrants who committed suicide after their asylum applications were rejected.”
According to data from Abdullah’s office, some 15,000 migrants have returned to the Kurdistan Region since 2011.
“En route to Europe, 65 Kurdish migrants have gone missing since 2011,” he added.