The Yousifs are an Iraqi family who were forced to flee to Lebanon in 2015 because of persecution. Life has been full of sorrows since their escape, overall creating a sense of them “living on borrowed time.” Like so many other Iraqi refugees, their lives have been turned upside down because of the various kinds of persecution Christians face in Iraq. ISIS waged a violent genocide against religious minorities, but the persecution of Christians existed long before the rise of these militants. An absence of law created the environment which gave rise to the militants, and this absence continues to make daily life difficult for Christians who remain in Iraq.
01/11/2018 Lebanon (Reuters) – In the hardscrabble Beirut suburb of Sad al Baoushriye, the narrow apartment rented by the Yousifs, a family of refugees from northern Iraq, is shrouded in sorrow.
The Yousifs were forced to flee the Nineveh region near Mosul in Iraq in 2015 amid a wave of reprisals against Christians and minorities, and persecution by extremists. The family of seven, who span three generations, first moved to Erbil. Then, still feeling vulnerable, they travelled on to Lebanon, with little more than memories.
Though the security worries have diminished, life in exile has itself been fraught. Soon after escaping from Iraq, Mirna, the mother, suffered another loss – her husband, Munzer, died in Beirut of natural causes. The four children, aged between 12 and 22, who are still with her in Lebanon, were left without a father.
“First my son had to leave Iraq as he was being forced to go and fight, then we followed. It was too dangerous to stay,” Mirna told UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, during a visit to the apartment alongside an Iraqi volunteer from the Catholic NGO Caritas, a UNHCR partner.
As she spoke, Mirna rustled around for a photo printout of the former family home, now just pockmarked walls encasing bricks, dust and twisted metal fragments. “We’ve lost our home. It was completely destroyed. What have we got to go back to?”
As well as keeping the immediate family together, Mirna has to care for her bereaved parents-in-law. Her mother-in-law, Faheemah, 82, is nearly blind and almost entirely bedridden, having suffered a stroke and other complications; her swollen legs only carry her from bed to bathroom, when assisted. The cost of medication has stretched family finances to breaking point.
Her father-in-law, Gorgis, 83, sometimes leaves the apartment but generally ventures no further than the local church or a plastic chair in the ground-floor car park, from where he surveys the street through glassy eyes.
“We’ve lost our home. It was completely destroyed. What have we got to go back to?”
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