Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as lockdown bites

Gole Zeblo Ismaeel, daughter in-law of Nayef al-Hamo, a Yazidi displaced man, hugs her neigbour before heading back to Sinjar following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and economic crisis, near Dohuk, Iraq July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 July 2020

Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as lockdown bites

  • Young men from my community who used to earn up to $17 a day working at restaurants and factories can no longer find work because of the lockdown’s impact on the economy

SHARYA: Hundreds of Yazidi families driven from their hometown of Sinjar in northern Iraq years ago are now returning as the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures makes their lives in exile even harder.
Many have lost their jobs and aid from donors in Sharya, where they have been living since they fled Sinjar in 2014.
Mahma Khalil, the mayor of Sinjar but now in exile in Dohuk in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, said more than 1,200 displaced families have returned from their temporary homes to Sinjar since June. Most had relatives their who serve in the military or police, he said.
Overrun by Daesh in 2014 and liberated by an array of forces the following year, little has been rebuilt in Sinjar.
Water is scarce and power intermittent in the city, whose former occupiers killed thousands of Yazidis and forced many women in sexual slavery.
Despite the devastation that makes the city still largely unfit for habitation, members of this ancient minority feel they have no other choice.
“The situation has become really bad,” Yazidi community leader Jameel Elias Hassan Al-Hamo said outside his makeshift home in Sharya, just south of Dohuk.
Young men from his community who used to earn up to $17 a day working at restaurants and factories can no longer find work because of the lockdown’s impact on the economy, Al-Hamo said.
As he spoke, men carried pieces of furniture, blankets and bags of food out of his home and piled them onto the back of a pickup truck.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened Iraq’s economic crisis, pushing oil prices down in a country that depends on crude export for more than 90 percent of its revenue. Restrictions on travel and curfews have driven many out of work.
Al-Hamo’s daughter-in-law Gole Zeblo Ismaeel said that the monthly aid packages they used to depend on became scarcer as the crisis impacted the work of humanitarian organizations.
Another reason for their return was the restriction on internal travel between semi-autonomous Kurdistan and neighboring Iraqi regions, imposed since March to curb the spread of the virus.
Al-Hamo said that most Yazidi families in Sharya have a son enrolled in armed forces stationed in Sinjar, who have been unable to visit for weeks.
“Some haven’t seen their families for over three months now,” he said.
Although their hometown is destroyed, Al-Hamo said they have been promised support by local aid organizations upon their return and he believed soon he will be reunited with the rest of his family soon.
“I registered over 400 names and phone numbers of relatives, members of the tribe and of the community. They said that once we, the sheikhs and tribal leaders, go back, they will follow us,” he added.
Khalil said he has been pleading for funds from the central government to step up reconstruction efforts in Sinjar but he believed it would not happen any time soon.


Canada launches a Lebanon relief fund after Beirut blast

Updated 25 min 39 sec ago

Canada launches a Lebanon relief fund after Beirut blast

  • The money will go to the Humanitarian Coalition, which brings together a dozen Canadian humanitarian organizations on the ground in Lebanon
  • The assistance is part of the Can$5 million aid package announced earlier this week by Ottawa

MONTREAL: The Canadian government announced on Saturday the launch of a Lebanon relief fund, calling on citizens to give generously to victims of the massive explosion that killed more than 150 people and injured 6,000 in Beirut.
“Every dollar donated by individual Canadians between August fourth and 24th will be matched by the government of Canada... up to a maximum of Can$2 million,” or $1.5 million, said International Development Minister Karina Gould at a news conference.
The money will go to the Humanitarian Coalition, which brings together a dozen Canadian humanitarian organizations on the ground in Lebanon, she said.
It will use its expertise to distribute the aid in areas such as water supply, sanitation, food and shelter.
“I encourage Canadians to donate to the Lebanon Matching Fund to help save lives and meet the urgent needs of the affected population,” said the minister, adding it was the best way for citizens to help.
The assistance is part of the Can$5 million aid package announced earlier this week by Ottawa.
A group of Lebanese-Canadian businessmen has announced plans to raise at least $2.5 million to help the disaster-stricken population.
Tuesday’s massive explosion leveled Beirut port and killed at least 158 people.
A fire at the port had ignited a large stock of ammonium nitrate, triggering an explosion that was felt as far away as Cyprus and destroyed entire neighborhoods.
It was widely perceived as a direct consequence of corruption and incompetence, an egregious case of callousness on the part of an already reviled ruling elite.