Daily Life in the Shadow of ISIS: How Iraq's Displaced People are Coping with War and Want
DOHUK, Iraq — Meryem has renamed the third floor of Motel Kurdistan. “Welcome to Bayt al-Sinjar!” the 8-year-old shouted, flinging her arms wide as my elevator door opened. I followed her down a dim hallway to number 308, the 110-square-foot room where her family of six has lived since fleeing ISIS’s advance on their Yazidi village in August.
“You can come here, but not Daesh,” Meryem said, using the Arabic name for ISIS as she opened the door. “No Daesh allowed.”
Latest for the Atlantic, a view of the war on ISIS from the displaced people in Kurdistan.
4:07 pm • 21 October 2014
“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it… If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
3:23 pm • 19 October 2014 • 1 note
Names, ages and family relations - 22 in all - of one Yezidi woman’s relatives under ISIS captivity in Mosul and Tal Afar. She hasn’t heard anything from two brothers and their sons, but one niece has called to say the women and children are alive, the 18 yr old girl sold.
The woman cried openly while listing these names. By the time we finished my translator was crying too.
#ISIS #Iraq #Kurdistan #yezidis #kidnapping #slavery #displacement #loss #shame #nothingtosay
12:12 pm • 16 October 2014 • 1 note
Looking out at #Duhok in the night w 8 yr old Meryem, from the roof of the motel where she and her family have lived since they fled #ISIS two months ago.
#yezidis #children #displaced #Kurdistan #Iraq (at دهوك)
12:11 pm • 16 October 2014 • 1 note
Islamic State Insurgent Cells Cause Death and Discrimination Behind Iraq's Front Lines
KIRKUK, Iraq — The road into the city of Kirkuk is lined with peshmerga, police, and flames — they continually shoot out of the ground as natural gas seeps up and ignites. On the road, dozens of cars wait at a checkpoint while peshmerga halt and question each driver: “Kurdi? Arabi?”
Kurds are waved in, while Arabs are pulled over, searched, and interrogated; the men stand in front of their car windows with crossed arms and grim faces, shielding the women and children inside. Some argue. Only a few make it through. The line of cars grows.
Kurds are leading the battle against the Islamic State — known as Daash in the region — in northern Iraq, particularly in places like Kirkuk, which has been under peshmerga control since the Iraqi army fled an Islamic State advance in June. Kurdish peshmerga and asayish [security] forces are now forced to fend off the Sunni militant group on the front lines, which are as close as 7 1/2 miles from Kirkuk’s center, and inside the city in the form of insurgent cells.
Kurdistan has taken in hundreds of thousands of displaced people, many of them Yezidis and Christians who now fill the churches and schools of Ankawa and Dohuk. But as international airstrikes increasingly compel Islamic State fighters to adopt guerrilla tactics, Kirkuk faces a rising threat of militants hiding among civilians — especially the 129,500 displaced people fleeing Islamic State-held areas, most of whom are Sunni Arabs. Their presence is both a humanitarian challenge and a security threat — people without shelter or aid, suffering among insurgents who initiate sectarian killings and bombings.
My latest for VICE News, a dispatch from Kirkuk.
5:35 pm • 15 October 2014
1. Eternal flames burn in Kirkuk, natural gas catching fire as it spews from the wealth of underground oil that have made this city disputed for centuries. Baghdad and Kurdistan both claim it as their own, but Kurdish peshmerga are the ones currently holding ISIS off. Two bombings happened at the place pictured bottom left, targeted by ISIS as a weapon dealers’ trade spot. The frontline was just 12 km from city center at its closest point. Now it’s 17 km away.
2. Twin babies, 2/20 children living in one house w four displaced Sunni Arab families in Kirkuk, Iraq.
3. These Sunni Arab families fled ISIS in Baiji, seeking refuge just as Kurdish Peshmerga secured the city in place of the fleeing Iraqi army. They are one out of some 21,000 displaced families in Kirkuk, most of whom are Sunni Arabs.
4. Most of the displaced Arabs’ neighbors are Kurds. They do not interact much, esp as international airstrikes push ISIS toward guerrilla tactics, raising suspicion of militants hiding among displaced Arabs. Sectarian distrust is esp strong in oil-rich Kirkuk, whose natural resources have cursed it w a history of dispute and ethnic cleansing. A 73 yr old shopkeeper compares ISIS to the Baathists who forcibly displaced and massacred Kurds in the 80s and 90s. “Help the Arabs? The Baathists turned on us like tigers.” He lived in a refugee camp in Iran for many years, returning to Kirkuk only in 2003. “I don’t want Arab friends anymore.”
8:29 am • 15 October 2014 • 3 notes
Scenes from downtown #Erbil, #Kurdistan #Iraq - descriptions etc over on Instagram
5:27 pm • 12 October 2014 • 1 note
Refugee Survival in Lebanon | Pulitzer Center
Late publication from this summer - a photo portrait of refugee life in Lebanon, which has more Syrian refugees per capita than any other country. Without official camps or sufficient funding, these refugees struggle to survive.
10:08 pm • 9 October 2014
The oldest people are the hardest to meet. #95yrsold #fatigue #displaced #iraq #yezidi #dohuk #pain
10:36 pm • 5 October 2014 • 3 notes
Yezidis tie this golden initial on their babies’ foreheads as a blessing. Nalivia’s mother was bit by a snake hours before IS arrived in their village. She couldn’t move, but her uncle and brother brought her to hide in a cave. N’s father had left earlier, thinking the peshmerga would protect his village. When he heard IS had come, the father climbed back to the village, found the cave and his w his family. After 8 days without food he decided this was it, his wife still had snake poison and they would live or die together. He hoisted her on his back and walked 13 hours straight, across the mountain and to the Syrian border. Kurdish troops rescued them there. N’s mother spent a week in the hospital and now they live in a school classroom. How did you survive? I ask N’s father. He smiles and points upwards. “We are blessed.”
#yezidis #IS #iraq #syria #kurdistan #survival #life (at دهوك)
12:51 am • 5 October 2014 • 2 notes