Displaced Yezidi families afraid of returning home despite ISIS departure

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Displaced Yezidi families in Syrian Kurdish area of Derik. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

DUHOK – Although the Peshmerga forces and allied local fighters, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, have recaptured the Yezidi district of Sinjar (Shingal) and the surrounding villages in northern Iraq from the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS), the displaced Yezidi civilians are still reluctant to return home. 

Some displaced Yezidis complained about the ISIS-led mass destruction of  the towns and villages in Shingal, while others expressed their concerns about explosives and land-mines left behind by the terror group.  

Speaking to ARA News in Shingal, Arif Khalil, one of the few Yezidis who revisited the region after its liberation, said: “On my way back to my house, I was struck by the scale of devastation that hit the villages and towns of the area. In Shingal, some houses were destroyed completely, while others half destroyed.”

“Many houses in the region have been looted and robbed,” he added.

Khalil pointed out that Shingal needs an intensive reconstruction campaign “after this devastating war”. 

Salim Akhdar, a displaced Yezidi man, spoke to ARA News in the Duhok camp for Yezidi refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, saying the land-mines planted by the terror group in Shingal region hinder his return with his family to to their hometown.

“Shingal had been under ISIS’s control for more than 15 months, and we are quite aware of the brutality of this group. The displaced civilians are reluctant to return home for fear of deadly accidental explosions,” he said. 

Akhdar pointed out that life in “impossible” in the Shingal (Sinjar) region at the moment; “people’s return may take a long time due to the risky obstacles”.

“Shingal’s infrastructure has been destroyed due to the heavy shelling and bombings. Without rebuilding the basic infrastructure people would not be able to live in the region at all,” Hakim Kalash, another Yezidi refugee, told ARA News. 

“Life will return to the Yezidi region but very slowly because the military operations are still ongoing, and many families have lost confidence in the return of stability and safety to Shingal following ISIS’s atrocities against innocent civilians.”

“ISIS still poses a threat to Shingal,” Kalash concluded.

The Shingal region had been under ISIS control for more than a year, where thousands of Yezidi civilians suffered from the atrocities of the extremist group.

The anti-ISIS operations started when the Peshmerga forces blocked most of the group’s supply lines in the area, breaking into the western neighborhoods of Shingal.

Shingal town and its environs enjoy a strategic location, and it connects the cities of Raqqa in eastern Syria with Mosul in northern Iraq –both held by ISIS.

In August last year, ISIS extremists had taken control of Shingal, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Yezidis remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape cases. 

On November 13, The Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan announced the liberation of the entire Yezidi district of Shingal (Sinjar) in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh after fierce battles with ISIS extremists. 

Reporting by: Issa Ali

Source: ARA News

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