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Removing the Traces of ISIS

08/01/2018 International Christian Concern (Washington D.C.) – When Iraq announced the military defeat of ISIS in December 2017, many turned their attention to the rebuilding of the Nineveh Plains. The challenges of doing so remain unceasing. Iraq estimates that the total cost of rebuilding the parts of the country affected by ISIS totals $88.2 billion and will take decades to accomplish.

Despite the long-term challenges, many Christians have returned and are reclaiming their traditional homeland in the Nineveh Plains. Milad, a farmer from Qaraqosh, is one such man who is doing so with the help of International Christian Concern (ICC).

As detailed in part one of this series, Milad returned home to discover that ISIS had turned his land into a vast tunnel system. This tunnel prevented him from farming his land and posed a danger to all who walked there due to mines that ISIS had left behind. Thankfully, he knew how to solve the problem. “First of all we will destroy the roof by a digger,” Milad explained when ICC visited his farm. “After that…we need to fix the basement and then we will take the dirt and TEKALA (big stones) out of the hall (barn) and fill the tunnel. We need to hire workers to make the land level, and then the watering process will start.”

Milad had the plan, the motivation, and the time, but he lacked the resources necessary to refill the tunnel. After speaking with Milad and visiting his property, ICC decided to help him accomplish his dream of restoring the farmland which once yielded him the income he needed to provide for his family.

Throughout the month of June and part of July, ICC worked with Milad to hire the labor necessary to cave in the tunnel and fill the remaining hole.

First, the tunnel had to be emptied of all of the debris left behind by ISIS. Care had to be taken, as Milad had already discovered and removed one mine in the tunnel. Thankfully, no more were found during this process, although an overabundance of materials (such as rusty nails) used to pack explosives were found. A stove, fan, bed, home appliances, and inventive medical equipment were also removed. “I found an ISIS fryer!” Milad told ICC. “It’s a deep fryer ISIS used for boiling syringes to disinfect it.”

After everything was removed from the tunnel, it was time to collapse the roof. ICC hired a bulldozer which worked for just over a week on the roof collapse. Once the roof was collapsed, the full extent of the tunnel could be measured. “The hole is deep, very deep,” exclaimed Milad. He continued, “When you get down here, you will see the dirt is two meters high (depth) and the length of the hall is 35 meters. It is a huge amount of dirt.”

Now came the truly challenging part. When ISIS had dug the tunnel, they hid the dirt inside Milad’s barn. This was done so that there were no visible indicators that would alert the security forces of ISIS’s presence.

Now that the tunnel was abandoned, the dirt had to be moved from inside the barn back into the ground outside. It required finding a tractor with precise measurements that could fit inside the barn. The process of refilling the tunnel was the slowest part of the project, as it involved two different kinds of tractors and a dump truck.

Finally, after more than a month of work, the tunnel was filled. All that was left was for ICC to hire the labor needed to touch up areas that the machinery couldn’t reach. The laborers had to make the ground smooth so that Milad could begin planting and watering.

From above ground, the difference to Milad’s land is nearly impossible to perceive. But the impact was life-changing for Milad. Now, his barn is usable. Now, he can water crops without fear of the tunnel collapsing. Now, his family can walk across the land without fear. Through ICC’s assistance, he truly has a new lease on life after ISIS so cruelly attempted to destroy it.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Milad’s story next week.

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: