We are starting another year of helping terrorism victims.
We have smoothly moved on to 2021 and already managed to help the first family.
But I will begin with what we promised before the end of the last year, namely with good news from the building sites of new houses in Sinjar. New buildings were raised more than two months ago, and their new owners have already moved in. These are three families that fled from ISIS in August 2014. Their houses were destroyed by terrorists when they took over Sinjar.
The building process was longer than we initially predicted due to the months-long lockdown in Iraq. The roads between provinces were closed and we were unable to buy materials and transfer them to the building site. Between March and August, sometimes people were forced to camp by the roads connecting towns. No one was allowed in or out. The entire 2020 was particularly hard for people living in camps for internally displaced persons. The exchange rates of both dollar and euro went up leading to large price hikes. Moreover, many people were unable to find any kind of job to support their families.
Three families have already got their own house
After these perturbations, we managed to begin with construction works. The families of Khero, Suleiman, and Sabri, which you can see in the movie below, received their houses and finally could leave their old, torn tents in which they had lived in the last several years. Two of these families include people with disabilities who require special care. Life in a camp was a nightmare for them making the simplest everyday activities difficult.
We would like to build new houses this year. Most probably there will not be many of them, but several more families will finally start living in decent conditions. It is difficult to imagine the magnitude of the tragedy they have gone through. Their life is a drama that has been going on for years after the genocide which they survived. That has been the case of Khoke whose story I will share with you in a moment. But I need to start from the beginning, namely from the circumstances in which I met her.
Everyone deserves a place to call home (WATCH)
Escape to the mountains
Soon four years will have passed since my first trip to Iraq under the Eaglewatch’s banner. Together with Agata who went with me on that trip, we visited tens of terrorism victims in several camps for internally displaced people. One of them was Khoke, who was living in the Essyan camp with her children. She shared with us how in August 2014 she fled from ISIS to the mountains. She told us how her husband was murdered by ISIS and how much she suffered during the climb up the steep Sinjar Mountain. When I speak about suffering, I mean the physical pain as well. During the grueling march in unbearable heat, with no food or water, Khoke got spine damage. The pain was so excruciating that she couldn’t walk. On top of that, she was heavily pregnant, making the family’s situation even worse. Her oldest son Anwar took the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. He led them to the mountain top, and then to the Essyan camp in iraqi Kurdistan.
The Essyan camp and the family tragedy
Like every family that found itself in a refugee camp, Khone thought it would be a temporary shelter. Unfortunately, the years were going by and the tent was slowly becoming their home. On top of that, Khoke’s spinal pain was getting worse every day making every daily activity a struggle impossible to overcome. She wasn’t even able to lift her children. The responsibility of providing for the family fell entirely on Anwar’s shoulders. It was a huge challenge for the boy who was merely 17-years-old. Together with Anne Norona from the YES foundation, we financed Khoke’s operation. We also opened a photocopy shop for the boy. We could do at least that.
We hoped things were getting back on track for them. Khoke was slowly recovering and Anwar was earning income. Unfortunately, sometimes the problem lies elsewhere and it is difficult to solve it. Especially in a situation where thousands of people live in poverty. Many of them are deeply traumatized and unable to deal with the tragedy that has fallen on the entire Yazidi community. That was the case of Anwar. The boy committed suicide at the beginning of the last year. He couldn’t live without hope for a better future.
Return to Sinjar
Some time ago we heard from Anne Norona again. She rented a house in Sinjar for the Khoke family and helped them to move. She asked if we could do anything to improve their economic situation. I asked Shamoo to visit Khoke and find out how we could help. After a discussion, we decided that the best way would be to buy the livestock for them. At the beginning of January, the team we work with in Iraq brought them sheep and goats and built a croft on the same day. This way, Khoke and her children have become the first family to receive our help this year.
Hope alone is not enough. We need action.
This story shows that time doesn’t always heal. If there are no actions and perspectives to make a situation better, every day can bring new pain and suffering. A tremendous responsibility that fell on Anwar’s shoulders was too great for him to carry on his own. He had relatives whom he loved, he had people to live for. But saw no future for himself or the community he grew up in. If the situation of thousands of ISIS victims doesn’t get any better, soon we may see many more such tragedies. Some time ago I wrote that terrorists’ aim was not only to take over a specific area and establish their laws there. Their actions were designed for a long-term effect. That’s why they destroyed schools, houses, shops, and hospitals, as well as libraries and monuments. They wanted the future generations of their victims to live in poverty, unable to rebuild their communities. We can learn from this that despite years going by, help is still needed for a lot of people.