Almost four years ago, tens of thousands of Yazidi people were forced to flee Sinjar, in north west Iraq, after being subjected to appalling violence. Returning takes courage, and determination. Aishan Haider is trying to restart her life, living with two other families in a partially destroyed house. But she has lost so much more than bricks and mortar: many of her family members are still missing.
“We lost everything. We lost our livelihoods, men, children, and even our honour,” says Aishan. “They took away five men from our house. From then on, we knew nothing about them.”
Aishan is trying hard to create a normal life for her family, but Sinjar is anything but normal. Much of the town is destroyed, its infrastructure and economy are in ruins.
“Now, I stay at home all day long and do not know what others do,” she says. Everybody wants to make a living while there are no jobs at all.”
Only around 30 per cent of the population has returned so far. Others, like Hasan, remain in makeshift camps on the mountain. Abu has been in the camp almost four years.
“Our houses are still in rubble. c,” says Hasan. “I went to my house twice. An IED close to it has not been removed until now. My two-floor house was levelled to the ground.”
And yet, from the rubble of Sinjar, life is returning. The resilience of its people is inspiring. Sherin Shafin is a nurse, she has a fierce pride in her community, and she is now dedicating herself to supporting it.
“Women lost their husbands, they had to stay up on the mountain,” says Sherin. “Some had to give birth without medical help. I am so proud of them. I consider this territory to be sacred.”
For other women and girls in Sinjar, however, resuming life in the place where they experienced violent trauma feels almost impossible. Sharihan, who has lost family members, and was abducted during the fighting, is one of them.
“I live here with my family, apart from my mother and brother,” she says. “I have no job. I want to rest and get out of this place. I want to take my family away and abandon this area.”
Perhaps one day, with the support of neighbours like nurse Sherin, Sharihan will have the strength to start again. Sherin at least has faith that Sinjar’s people will overcome the challenges.
“People coming to Sinjar are always impressed with our community. In spite of the mass killings in Sinjar, the community remains united. Our society respects its norms and traditions. Although the displaced families stayed in camps for four years, they maintained their dignity and cohesion.”
Facts and Figures ICRC Sinjar, Iraq
In 2018 the ICRC has provided cash assistance to almost 2000 displaced families still living in tents on Sinjar mountain.
The ICRC has opened a satellite office in Sinuni, Sinjar district, and is responding to protection and assistance concerns there.
To find out more about the ICRC’s activities in Iraq go to: https://www.icrc.org/en/social-media-dashboard/country/iq/iraq
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For further information, please contact:
Ralph El Hage, ICRC Amman, Tel: + 962 7 7845 4382
Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Baghdad, Tel: + 964 78 278 949 89
Iolanda Jaquemet, ICRC Geneva, Tel: +41 79 447 37 26
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