In Person

FBR Medic: ‘It Was a Great Privilege to Be Able to Help’

By Saw Yan Naing 12 June 2017

Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a Christian humanitarian group, sent a team to Iraq to assist civilians who were affected by conflict waged by the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS). Formed in 1997 by former US Army officer David Eubank, FBR has provided emergency relief in ethnic minority areas in Myanmar plagued by more than 60 years of civil war. Since January 2016, FBR has repeatedly traveled to Iraq for relief and reporting trips.

The Irrawaddy’s senior reporter Saw Yan Naing interviewed FBR member Silverhorn Lermu, an ethnic Karen medic who recently returned from a relief mission to Mosul, Iraq.

Please tell us about your experience in Iraq.

I had the chance to go and help people in a country I had never been to. My duty on this trip was to treat injured civilians and assist refugees who had fled IS fighters. People had been injured by gunshots, building collapses and fire. We were not a large team but it was a great privilege to be able to help, even in a small way.

When did you go to Iraq and for how long? How does the conflict there compare to Myanmar?

I went from April 17 to May 17. Conflict in Iraq and Karen State, Myanmar is very different. They are geographically different as well, hence the use of different military equipment. I saw many refugees in Iraq who were fleeing the conflict.

IS is notorious for its extreme violence. Weren’t you afraid? How did you prepare for the trip?

IS fighters kill women, old men, children and the disabled. I was worried for my safety before I left. But when I got there and saw the suffering, my fear disappeared. I believed God would protect me and I trusted the Iraqi military. I mainly followed them and treated the injured.

Did you confront IS troops?

Our mission was not to fight. We were there to help in an emergency situation. I did not go there to fight IS nor help the Iraqi Army. I was there to assist civilian communities.

Your team leader David Eubank was injured. How did that happen and what is his current condition?

I heard that he was injured the day after I returned to Karen State. He and an Iraqi Army officer were confronted by four IS fighters. His hand was injured but his condition now is good.

How did you and assist and how did Iraqi civilians respond to you?

We delivered water, food and clothes and provided healthcare. We also provided reports based on our experience there for the international community. Civilians and Iraqi Army officers were appreciative.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.