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His mom — a doctor and 'a true angel' — died when mortar struck her home in Sudan

Nagwa Khalid Hamad, who died when mortar hit her home in Khartoum, at a wedding in in 2019. Her son says: "I don't even recall whose wedding it was but all i can remember is my brother, sister, mom and myself were there and we were happy." He describes her as "a very calm person." If he was upset, he says, "she would say to just take it in, just breathe it in and don't worry about it."
Khalid Osman
Nagwa Khalid Hamad, who died when mortar hit her home in Khartoum, at a wedding in in 2019. Her son says: "I don't even recall whose wedding it was but all i can remember is my brother, sister, mom and myself were there and we were happy." He describes her as "a very calm person." If he was upset, he says, "she would say to just take it in, just breathe it in and don't worry about it."

Nagwa Khalid Hamad, age 66, died last Sunday when a mortar collided with her home in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. Hamad was an ophthalmologist beloved by her patients. She was also a wife and mother of four. She is one of at least 400 people killed since conflict erupted last Saturday.

Intense fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group has ripped through Khartoum and other parts of Sudan. Normally bustling areas have been overtaken by air strikes, artillery, gunfire and tragedy.

Both sides were meant to were meant to join and become one Sudanese army but are now locked in a struggle for power in Sudan. Their claim to be fighting to protect Sudan's transition to democracy is one that many in the country reject.

Since Hamad died there has been an outpouring of grief and gratitude for her life from people who knew her. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors and the Sudanese American Physicians both released statements following her death. Her youngest son Khalid Osman is an engineer for Boeing and a U.S Army veteran who lives in Ohio. He tweeted about his mom — "the love of my life" — and spoke with NPR about her death, her life and what she meant to him and those who loved her. Here is what he said.

My mom's full name is Nagwa Khalid Hamad. She was a doctor, an ophthalmologist. She worked at Khartoum Eye Hospital for more than 30 years. When she passed away she was around 66 years old. She lived in Khartoum, Sudan.

She had three sons and one daughter. I'm the youngest.

This photo of Nagwa Khalid Hamad is from July 22, 2022, at the Khartoum International Airport in Sudan, with her husband and her son Khalid Osman, who says, "I was on my way back to the U.S after spending Eid al-Adha with my mom, dad and sister." His mom died when her home was struck with mortar during the fighting. He says that she "loved her country so much."
/ Khalid Osman
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Khalid Osman
This photo of Nagwa Khalid Hamad is from July 22, 2022, at the Khartoum International Airport in Sudan, with her husband and her son Khalid Osman, who says, "I was on my way back to the U.S after spending Eid al-Adha with my mom, dad and sister." His mom died when her home was struck with mortar during the fighting. He says that she "loved her country so much."

The last time I spoke to my mom was a little less than 24 hours prior to the incident. The conversation was very casual. She was telling me about a sick relative of ours who was in the hospital and how she needed our hopes and prayers. Then I received another voice recording on WhatsApp. It was less than an hour before she died, before she was killed. The message was mainly focused on telling [my family and me] how severe the attacks were. There were so many loud explosions, the sound of automatic machine guns, the sound of active war over there. She didn't know the next one would hit her.

I was in the process of bringing her to the U.S. I'd already applied for her green card and she was approved. She was just waiting to get her appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Sudan and trying to help me fill out the paperwork so we could expedite this process [of getting the physical card].

In the last voice message I received from her she thanked me for supporting our relative who was in the hospital. When my mom heard about it she was very thankful. She would say, thank you so much for helping Khalid. It's going to be helpful to her.

When the incident happened she was in the living room of our house. It was Sunday morning around 6 a.m. Khartoum time. The mortar just came down and hit our house. The shrapnel flew all over and broke the windows, and some of it came inside. Sadly, she was hit by a piece of shrapnel and died almost immediately. My dad tried to perform first aid but he couldn't because the damage was too severe. He couldn't save her.

This whole war — I'm not even going to call it a conflict. It's a war between the military leader and the militia leader for, in my opinion, personal vengeance. Two people get mad at each other and they're calling for whole militaries, whole platoons, whole companies to fight on their behalf. And sadly, the victims are innocent civilians. [Both sides are] using weapons that they're not even supposed to be using in a city. Who would ever use mortars, rockets, missiles and RPGs in the middle of a city?

My mom was an angel. She was a true angel. And I'm not just saying that because I'm her son. I saw all the social media reactions to my post. I've received so many direct messages on Twitter and Facebook, and I don't know 99 percent of the people who sent them. Those people were her patients, colleagues and friends. Some were even strangers. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors put an announcement on Twitter about my mom's death and people from all over showed up. They sent me their condolences and asked me if I needed anything. It's just in the Sudanese people's nature to support each other. My mom did so much good for people that I didn't even know about.

My mom was such a nice person. She was calm. She was very calm. I'm an easily tempered person and every time I had an issue while at her house I'd go to her room. I would be storming. And then I would talk to my mom and complain to my mom. My mom would just calm me down and tell me it was OK. She would say to just take it in, just breathe it in and don't worry about it.

She was always there for everyone. Whenever we had any kind of occasion — a wedding a funeral, a friend in the hospital — she was always the first person there. She was such a beloved person. She was warm, she was kind and she was always smiling.

My mom loved her country so much. She just wanted a backup plan. I convinced her that she and my dad should have a backup plan so that, whenever they needed to, they could flee the country. But my mom just didn't want to leave the country. She wanted to stay. She hated the coup regime that Omar al-Bashir led and this new one too. Like the rest of the Sudanese people she just wanted a civilian-led government.

The only comfort I've had lately is knowing that the people she helped and the people who loved her are there for me.

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Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.