For a good while, it felt like another tedious guard shift for Chato Saeed, a Peshmerga soldier on the Kurdish frontline against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS). In the blistering afternoon of that mid-August day last year, the flat plains in this part of southern Nineveh resembled a mirage as heat waves simmered above the ground. Suddenly, Saeed, 34, and another fellow guard heard the whistling sound of a mortar attack.

As they ducked behind the sandbags erected to protect them from enemy fire, they heard a shallow explosion. A few seconds later, they peered through gaps between the sandbags and saw “something like a yellowish or whitish smoke” arising from the spot where the rocket had landed.

“My friend shouted, ‘It’s a chemical attack!’ and ran down to take cover in the room below,” Saeed told Al Jazeera. Saeed hastily untied the checkered white and black turban he was wearing around his neck and poured some water on it and covered his face hoping to protect himself from the gasses that the wind was sweeping towards him.

Soon, he ran out of breath. “I started feeling dizzy and then fainted,” said Saeed.

He and 13 other wounded Peshmerga troops were taken to a small health facility in the nearby town of Makhmour. To this day, Saeed says he still suffers from an infection in his left ear and if exposed to strong sunlight “my face turns red and I feel like my skin thickens and I get rushes”.

The gas attack that Saeed endured in Jaralla was just one of a rising number of such attacks launched by ISIL against Kurdish forces. Continue reading. 

At NCT CBRNe Middle East in Kuwait on 26-28 September, you can listen to the presentation and speak with Dr. Houssam Alnahhas who has been nominated by the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces to present on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.