- Title: Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as coronavirus lockdown bites
- Date: 6th July 2020
- Summary: SHARYA, IRAQ (JULY 3, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MEN PUSHING A HOUSE'S WALL UNTIL IT FALLS TO THE GROUND YAZIDI COMMUNITY LEADER, JAMEEL ELIAS HASSAN AL-HAMO, WATCHING VARIOUS OF MAN STANDING ON THE HOUSE'S ROOF AND DESTROYING WALLS WITH SHOVEL (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) YAZIDI COMMUNITY LEADER, JAMEEL AL-HAMO, SAYING: "My relatives, the community and the tribe, I have over 400 names on me, including phone numbers. They said that once we, the Sheikhs and tribal chieftains, go back (to Sinjar), they would follow us." PEOPLE ORGANIZING HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES IN FRONT OF A LARGE TRUCK WOMAN CLEANING A PLASTIC SHEET ON THE GROUND WITH A BROOM CHILDREN SITTING ON BOXES WITH MORE PACKAGES IN THE BACKGROUND GIRL AND BOY CARRYING A FRIDGE TWO MEN CARRYING A FRIDGE OUT OF AL-HAMO'S HOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) YAZIDI COMMUNITY LEADER, JAMEEL AL-HAMO, SAYING: "We have been in the Kurdistan region (of Iraq) for six years now. The situation is really bad now. First of all, the coronavirus impacted us a lot. Many of us are in the armed forces over there (in Sinjar). Many of them haven't seen their families for three months now." TWO MEN SITTING ON TOP OF PICKUP TRUCK AND TIGHTENING ROPES AL-HAMO LOOKING AT THE TRUCK FAMILY GATHERED IN FRONT OF THEIR TENT WATCHING THE MEN LOAD THE TRUCK TRUCK SEEN THROUGH THE WHEEL OF A BIKE (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) AL-HAMO'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, GOLE ZEBLO ISMAEEL, SAYING: "Every month, they were distributing a package with health supplies and a food package. It was not enough, life has been hard. Also, there is no job opportunity at the moment." VARIOUS OF ISMAEEL AND RELATIVES PACKING BLANKETS INTO A PLASTIC BAG (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) AL-HAMO'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, GOLE ZEBLO ISMAEEL, SAYING: "Of course I will remember my childhood, my relatives and my family. The sweet but also difficult times we experienced (in Sinjar). I will look at our village once full of people but now empty and deserted. Of course this is difficult, I will be very down." MEN LOADING A PACKAGE ONTO THE BACK OF A TRUCK VARIOUS OF MAN TYING A ROPE ON THE SIDE OF THE TRUCK (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) YAZIDI COMMUNITY LEADER, JAMEEL AL-HAMO, SAYING: "Our area is destroyed, there is nothing there, no electricity, no water, no services. We have to start from zero, God help us." SHARYA, IRAQ (JULY 4, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WOMEN KISSING EACH OTHER GOOD-BYE AS TRUCKS ARE READY TO DEPART (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) SON OF AL-HAMO, JIHAD JAMEEL ELIAS, SAYING: "I'll start by repairing my house and once I am done I will sit at home. If organisations come and provide employment, I will work. If they don't come, I will sit." WOMEN KISSING EACH OTHER THROUGH OPEN PICKUP TRUCK WINDOW VARIOUS OF PICKUP TRUCK DRIVING AWAY AS PEOPLE WAVE GOOD-BYE TRUCK DRIVING AWAY
- Embargoed: 20th July 2020 15:46
- Keywords: Coronavirus Economic crisis Exile Iraq Iraqi Kurdistan Reconstruction Refugees Return Sinjar Unemployment Yazidis
- Location: SHARYA AND SINJAR, IRAQ
- City: SHARYA AND SINJAR, IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001CLO9Q2V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hundreds of Yazidi families driven from their hometown of Sinjar years ago are now returning as the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures makes their lives in exile even harder.
Many families displaced since 2014 in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region have recently lost their jobs and aid from donors.
Mahma Khalil, the mayor of Sinjar but now living in exile in Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan, said more than 1,200 displaced families have returned from their temporary homes to Sinjar since June, in a move that seemed unlikely only a few months ago.
Overrun by Islamic State in 2014 and liberated by an array of forces the following year, little has been rebuilt in Sinjar.
Water is scarce and power intermittent in the city, whose former occupiers killed thousands of Yazidis and forced many women in sexual slavery.
Despite the devastation that makes the city still largely unfit for habitation, members of this ancient minority feel they have no other choice than to head back.
"The situation has become really bad," Yazidi community leader Jameel al-Hamo said outside his makeshift home in Sharya, just south of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened Iraq's economic crisis, pushing oil prices down in a country that depends on crude export for more than 90% of its revenue. Restrictions on travel and curfews have driven many out of work, including men from the Yazidi community depending on daily wages.
Al-Hamo's daughter-in-law Gole Zeblo Ismaeel said that the monthly aid packages they used to depend on became scarcer as the crisis impacted the work of humanitarian organizations.
Another reason for their return are the restrictions on internal travel between semi-autonmous Kurdistan and neighbouring Iraqi regions, imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
Al-Hamo said that most Yazidi families in Sharya have a son enrolled in armed forces stationed in Sinjar, who have been unable to visit since weeks.
Although their home is destroyed, al-Hamo said they have been promised support by local aid organisations upon their return, adding that he believes soon he will be reunited with the rest of his family, waiting for him to lead the way back.
Khalil said he has been pleading for funds from the central government to step up reconstruction efforts in Sinjar but he believed it would not happen any time soon.
(Production: Kawa Omar, Charlotte Bruneau, Amina Ismail, Mohammed Katfan)
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