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ICC Note: It’s been two years since ISIS invaded Qaraqosh, Iraq, a Christian town and safe haven for those escaping persecution elsewhere in the country. Now those who fled on that fateful day live as internally displaced peoples and refugees in other countries. They have nothing left and many have little hope of ever returning to their home. Church leaders estimate between 100,000 and 160,000 fled the region in the summer of 2014. Bahija, 65, now lived in Amman, Jordan and cries every day from the trauma that befell her and her family two years ago.

08/05/2016 Iraq (WWM): Bahija, 65, a housekeeper, told me she cries every day and suffers from headaches – two years after IS fighters raided her home in Tel Kayf (outside Mosul) in front of her, while her elderly father lay in bed upstairs. Kurdish security forces stationed near their house, by whom the family had expected to be protected, were absent when the jihadists arrived.

Exactly two years ago (6 and 7 August), IS invaded Qaraqosh, a town on the Nineveh plains, which, with Mosul, formed the biggest community of Christians in northern Iraq.

When it seized control of vast areas of northern Iraq two years ago, IS spray-painted the homes of non-Sunnis with the Arabic letter “N” for “nasrani”, a derogatory term for “Christian”; “M” for members of the military or police; and “R” for “rafithi”, a derogatory term for Shia Muslims, threatening them all with death if they did not convert or leave.

Church leaders estimated that between 100,000 and 160,000 Christians fled Mosul and its surrounding villages for Kurdistan in the summer of 2014. Many remain in camps there, while others have travelled to Jordan or Lebanon to join pre-existing Christian communities.

“I wouldn’t go back to Iraq if they paid me billions. No one is left for us, only God.”

Bahija, her sister and their parents first fled to Kurdistan, where, a month later, her father died. The women lived for seven months in a room in a church, spent 11 months at the Ashti camp in Erbil, and, when hygiene levels in the camp deteriorated, moved to Amman, Jordan, where they share a sparsely furnished two-roomed house with three other relatives.

Bahija said their 80-year-old mother, Bahar, cries at night, has become very fearful and developed high blood pressure since the ordeal. Bahija’s sister, Samira, lost her teacher’s pension as soon as they left Iraq because she worked for 23 years of the 35 years required to qualify. Bahija said: “I wouldn’t go back to Iraq if they paid me billions. No one is left for us, only God.”

Levels of poverty, hunger and trauma are soaring among the thousands of Iraqi refugees who have sought refuge in Amman and are receiving little or no aid. Some women have turned to prostitution to make ends meet and some households are missing meals.

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