For Yazidi survivors of Islamic State killings, the nightmares go on

For Yazidi survivors of Islamic State killings, the nightmares go on

For Yazidi survivors of Islamic State killings, the nightmares go on

Written by Reuters

19 Feb, 2019 | 4:33 pm

Reuters – Ever since Islamic State visited death and destruction on their villages in northern Iraq nearly five years ago, Yazidis Daoud Ibrahim and Kocher Hassan have had trouble sleeping.

For Hassan, 39, who was captured, it is her three missing children, and three years of imprisonment at the hands of the jidahist group.

For Ibrahim, 42, who escaped, it is the mass grave that he returned to find on his ravaged land.

He said the militants destroyed houses and torched groves of olive trees. “There is nothing left” he said.

More than 3,000 other members of their minority sect were killed in 2014 in an onslaught that the United Nations described as genocide.

Ibrahim and Hassan lived to tell of their suffering, but like other survivors, they have not moved on.

As U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to announce the demise of the Islamist group in Syria and Iraq, U.N. data suggests most of those displaced, like Hassan, cannot return home.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim and his family live in a barn next to the pile of rubble that was once their home.

He grows wheat because the olive trees will need years to grow again. No one is helping him rebuild, so he is doing it himself, brick by brick.

“Life is bad. There is no aid,” he said, sitting on the edge of the collapsed roof which he frequently rummages under to find lost belongings. On this day, it was scarves, baby clothes and a photo album.

The grave on Ibrahim’s land, discovered in 2015 just outside Sinjar city, contains the remains of more than 70 elderly women, residents say.

Ibrahim said the Iraqi government will not remove the remains and re-bury them. He said the spirits of the dead “come to their place of burial and cry”.

When the militants came, thousands of Yazidis fled on foot towards Sinjar mountain.

More than four years later, some 2,500 families – including Hassan and five of her daughters – still live in the tents that are scattered along the hills that weave their way towards the summit.

The grass is green on the meadows where children run after sheep and women pick wild herbs.

But the peaceful setting masks deep-seated fears about the past and the future.

Until a year and a half ago, Hassan and five of her children were kept in an underground prison in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, with little food and in constant fear of torture.

She doesn’t know why Islamic State freed her and the girls, then aged one to six, and hasn’t learnt the fate of the three remaining children: two boys Fares and Firas, who would be 23 and 19 now, and Aveen, a girl who would be 13.

She lives in hope that her other three children will be set free by the militants. “That is what I want. I want nothing else” she said.

Hassan says she will never set foot in her village of Rambousi again. “There are too many memories. My sons built that house. Their things are still there,” she said.

Her husband Mahmoud Khalaf says Islamic State not only destroyed their livelihoods. The group broke the trust between Yazidis and the communities of different faiths and ethnicities they had long lived alongside.

“Those who killed us and held us captive and tormented us have returned to their villages,” Khalaf, 40, said, referring to the inhabitants of neighbouring Sunni Arab villages who the Yazidis say conspired with the militants.

“We cannot go back. They are stronger than us in everything. They are stronger than us” he said.

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