“You have to be kind.”
This quote is the best possible introduction to Dr. Hiwa, a local doctor and one of our heroes. But Hiwa does more than just talk about kindness, it permeates every action he takes as constantly puts others before himself.
Hiwa’s selflessness is even more amazing when you know his story—he is no stranger to hardship. When he was two years old, his family was arrested by Iraqi soldiers during Saddam Hussein’s Anfal Campaign. His father was part of the Kurdish rebellion against the regime. After the family’s arrest, Hiwa never saw his father again. The government imprisoned his remaining family for six months while interrogating his mother for information about her husband.
After their release, they resettled in a new city, unable to go back home, only to flee again when so many Kurds were forced out of the country in 1991. When Hiwa was ten, his widowed mother remarried, leaving Hiwa and his sister caught up in custody battles over which grandparents would raise them. When the rest of his family was finally able to return to their hometown, Hiwa stayed behind for medical school.
Now Hiwa is reaching to become the first-ever pediatric heart surgeon in all of Iraqi Kurdistan. In medical school Hiwa saw children dying because their parents were unable to afford an expensive heart surgery abroad, and he decided to help these children get their chance, to see Iraq able to serve their own kids.
Becoming a heart surgeon for children doesn’t happen overnight. This choice would require a decade at least, and he would need to either leave his country or receive training from foreigners. He is a little more than half-way through this difficult path, but to Dr. Hiwa, it’s worth it. “They are in the most need now.”
Wherever there is the most need, there you will find Dr. Hiwa.
He will care for anyone in need, he has even served known ISIS fighters. He is known to personally return to the hospital to check on patients four or five times a day, even after months of not receiving his salary due to Iraq’s economic crisis.
Hiwa says, “There are no heroic things in medicine. We are all a team, and we have one goal: helping our patients.”
His humility in no way reflects his value. He is a teacher, a leader, the future of healthcare in Iraq. He insists on doing things the right way every time and treating everyone as if they were his own brother or sister. For Dr. Hiwa, this is not about him. This is about the value each person has and dignity they deserve.
By choosing kindness every time, Hiwa is changing the future of Iraq.