ICC Note: Today marks the four-year anniversary of Christians being displaced from the Nineveh Plains. Although most would flee to Kurdistan, some made their way south to Baghdad. Many of the displaced Christians will not return home, despite ISIS’s military defeat last fall. A number of those in Baghdad have worked to rebuild their lives away from where the militants had attempted genocide. Al-Jazeera catches up with a few of the IDPs in Baghdad, who share the challenges and struggles they’ve faced because of displacement.
08/07/2018 Iraq (al-Jazeera) – Exactly four years ago, a whole community of Iraqi Christians who lived for decades in the lush plains of the northeast fled their homes, never to return.
Displaced by the expansion of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – which rapidly overran vast territories in Iraq, eventually seizing one-third of the country in 2014 – Christian families left their homes in the ancient Assyrian towns of Nineveh province to resettle in Erbil and the capital, Baghdad.
Samir Petrus, 50, who left Hamdaniya, a district located on the outskirts of Mosul, where the majority of the Iraqi Christian community are Chaldo-Assyrians, says he will never return to Nineveh.
“There’s nothing for me to go back to. No jobs, no home, let alone safety and security,” says Petrus, who now lives at an IDP camp in Baghdad. “I’m here now with my girls and I have to look ahead.”
ISIL targeted minorities of the Nineveh plains when it stormed northern Iraq, taking over Mosul in 2014. Although other communities in Mosul hope to go home again, Christian and Yazidi minorities say they’ve endured enough persecution and refuse to return, even if ISIL has been defeated.
Petrus has a vivid memory of the horror on August 6, 2014. As a driver, he helped transport dozens of families out of Hamdaniya the night ISIL moved into surrounding territory.
“We received a call at 2am from my sister-in-law. She told us that the Peshmerga had been defeated,” he says, handing over a fragrant cup of coffee.
The Kurdish Peshmerga had been fighting alongside the Hashd al-Shabi, or Popular Mobilisation Units, and the Iraqi Army to try and contain ISIL’s lightning advance into northern Iraq.
“It was a matter of hours. We had to leave,” he adds, remembering how he fled with his wife Evelyn and five girls in fear of what ISIL might do to them.
“I knew what they did to the Yazidis. They (ISIL) would have taken my girls and done whatever, then chopped them up into pieces. The whole town fled that night. Just a few stayed behind.”
Petrus took his family to Erbil before eventually relocating to Baghdad, where he has lived in the Zayoona suburb of Baghdad for four years.
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