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.


At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

Updated 11 min 12 sec ago

At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

  • Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes
  • The militants had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people after they returned to their homes

EL-ARISH: More than a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula over the past two weeks from explosive devices laid down in their homes by militants, security and medical officials said Sunday.
Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes. The military then secured the villages in August and allowed residents to return to their homes a few weeks later, the officials said.
The militants, however, had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people, including six from the same family late on Saturday, officials said. The causalities included women and children.
At least ten others have been wounded since Oct. 12 and were taken to the town’s hospital for treatment, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Bir Al-Abd was the site of a horrific extremist attack on a mosque in 2017 that killed over 300 worshippers, some of them fathers praying with their young sons. The tribes of North Sinai have been heavily targeted by militants who view their veneration of Muslim saints and shrines as heretical, forcing a mass exodus of residents from the impoverished area that has long been underdeveloped by the government.
Violence and instability there intensified after the military overthrew the country’s president in 2013 amid nationwide protests against the Muslim Brotherhood group’s divisive rule. Extremist militants have since carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.
The conflict has largely taken place out of public view, with journalists and outside observers barred from the area. The conflict has so far not expanded into the southern end of the peninsula where popular Red Sea tourist resorts are located.
In February 2018, the military launched a massive operation in Sinai that also encompassed parts of the Nile Delta and deserts along the country’s western border with Libya. Since then, the pace of Daesh attacks in Sinai’s north has diminished.