We’re thrilled to share writing pieces completed during the 2021 My Roots Writing Workshop for Immigrants that was led by Doretta Lau.
Battle Scars – My Broken Head
Written by Diary Marif

My hair had become spikier since I had been shaving it every month. I was annoyed every time it got longer. During the earlier months of the corona virus pandemic. It had been some 50 days since I shaved it due to the pandemic. Keeping my hair relative short was unusual for me because the barber shops were closed, so I forced to shave it myself. After, I looked at the mirror all my scars were visible. I felt terrible because they brought back vivid memories of trauma.

In my younger days, I preferred my hair being shaved with a razor, but I always felt shy when my scars became visible to everyone. As the pandemic spread, it was less risky if I shaved it myself. I purchased a hat to cover my scars. I started by shaving my right sideburns and then the left ones while I listened to Kurdish music. I looked in the mirror, “Wow look at you! It is nice,” I told myself.

Next, I cut the top part with a clipper. Suddenly, I was gripped with panic. I dropped the clipper. I put both my hands on the sink board as memories started flashing through my mind. I thought about those years ago when a man in my village shaved my head and snipped at my ears deliberately because he was irritated, I had lice and so many scars! My ears bled, but I did not dare to cry until he finished. Having lice during the wars is another story but to cut a long story short, because we were ravaged by war and hygiene, for obvious reasons, had taken back seat.  Taking baths had also become a traumatic event for me. My aunt had taken bath me forcefully since I had been separated from my family after the mass exodus of the Kurds from Iraq to neighborhood countries in 1991. My aunt forced me into a large tray in cold outdoors in front of people because there was no bathrooms and she soap me from head to toe. I would scream when the soap got into my eyes and then she poured cold water onto my body. Taking baths had become traumatic.  

With these vivid memories, I continued to shave my head watchfully.  I  did not want to use the razor because it reminded me of the man who snipped my ears. The scars were so visible I was still embarrassed to see them after 25 years. I saw all the scars. I counted the spots one, two, and three… I eventually found ten. “Stop that,” I told myself. Each scar has deep tragic memory. I closed my eyes, evoking the most traumatic events that caused three of my scars.

The scar with two parallel lines on the left side of my head was caused by a wild boy. It was a cold day in the fall of 1990, and when I strolled out of my place, the boy threw a cement block, which had nails, from a house. I lost consciousness for hours. At that time, we lived in the suburb of Sulaymaniyah City. We escaped there just a few months before the end of eight years Iraq-Iran war in 1988. Those were horrible dark days. Families had to take care of their children to protect them from strangers. My injured head was hurting, and I had no medicine and doctors were hard to find. My mother put a fried egg on the scar and tied it with a rope. Days later, she untied the rope. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She assured the bruise would heal, but the parallel lines would mark me forever.

The large scar on the right side looks like a waning moon.  A donkey kicked me in 1991. This time I was 7 when my family fled into Mariwan town in Rojalat (Iranian Kurdistan) to escape threats from Saddam Hussein’s regime. We were sheltered by a distance relative in a remote village. We fled with only the clothes we were wearing and started from scratch.  One day, while peeling Populus nigra to earn some money, a donkey kicked me on my forehead. Since we were referred to as Iraqi foreigners, we had no rights to any health benefits according to the Iranian regime. As a result, I was not treated well at the hospital and discharged too soon, and the scar did not heal very well. Neither did we have enough clothing, blankets, and no pillow to cushion my wound. Everyday I bled painfully as the hairless wound healed, it took on the appearance of a deteriorating barren land.

The scorpion scar on the left side of my head happened most dramatically. It was back in 1988 when I was playing with cannon balls among ruins, since there were no kindergarten playgrounds. One particular day, I fell into a deep sewer and slit the left side of my face.  Years later, I had been told my mother had frantically looked for me while crying hysterically. She found me unconscious at the bottom of this hole. I had been severely hurt and I had a deep scar that needed to get stitched. Again, it was during the Iraq-Iran war and doctors had no time to properly treat it. Later the stitches left a scar that looks like a scorpion which children cruelly made fun of and eventually earned me the nickname “Scorpion”.

As I was lost in time thinking about these events for my time. One of my housemates came knocking at the bathroom door. He was very surprised as I typically do not stay so long in the bathroom. I finally came out and both my housemates were shocked when they saw all my scars. The way they looked at my scars, reminded me of my childhood playmates touching my head and mocking the scars. The dark days have passed, but the unpleasant memories may never go. My visible scars will always symbolize my emotional scars.