What should have been the most joyous day in the lives of Iraqi newlyweds Haneen and Revan has turned into a harrowing nightmare. Last week, a devastating fire erupted at their wedding venue, claiming the lives of more than 100 guests and loved ones. The bride, Haneen, remains in shock, unable to speak, while her husband, Revan, is overwhelmed with grief.
Revan expressed the profound impact of the tragedy during an interview with Sky News, saying, “Inside we are dead. We are numb. We are dead inside.” He revealed that 18-year-old Haneen, traumatized by the loss of ten family members, including her mother and brother, is currently unable to speak. Her father is in intensive care in the hospital.
The inferno occurred at a crowded wedding hall in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq. Initially blamed on indoor fireworks, Revan suggested that the fire may have originated from the ceiling. He explained, “It could be a short-circuit, I don’t know. But the fire started in the ceiling. We felt the heat… When I heard the crackling, I looked at the ceiling. Then, the ceiling, which was all nylon, started to melt. It only took seconds.”
Officials from the Iraqi civil defense have indicated that the use of highly flammable building materials contributed to the rapid and devastating spread of the fire. Interior Minister Abdel Amir al-Shammari stated, “Using flammable decoration helped the fire to spread quickly and transformed the hall into a fireball.”
Revan recounted that there was a sudden power outage just before the couple’s dance, and when the lights came back on, he saw fiery embers descending from above. Despite Haneen’s voluminous wedding gown making it difficult for her to run, Revan managed to help her escape the blaze.
As the grieving community continues with funerals and prayers, the newlyweds have made the painful decision to leave their hometown. Revan stated, “We can’t live here anymore. I mean every time we try to have some happiness, something tragic happens to us and destroys the happiness. So, it’s best for us to leave.”
Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniyah, is home to 26,000 Christians who were previously displaced by ISIS. They now face another heart-wrenching tragedy that could have been avoided.
Public outrage has grown over the high death toll, which currently stands at 107, according to General Saad Faleh, who heads the commission investigating the incident. The venue’s owner and three staff members allowed 900 people into the hall, which was designed for a maximum of 400.
Earlier this year, Civil Defence conducted an inspection of the site and ordered the owner to remove the flammable ceiling by October. However, this directive was not followed. The fire’s primary cause was identified as four fireworks that emitted sparks up to four meters high, igniting the ceiling’s prefabricated panels and the hall’s decorations.
According to Interior Minister Shammari, the owner of the hall, believing that a short circuit caused the fire, cut off the electricity, plunging the room into darkness and triggering chaos, panic, and a stampede. Security forces have arrested 14 individuals, including four responsible for installing the fireworks.