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Displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan: 'We just want to go home'

By Brian Duss, World Vision Media Relations Manager
Jun 9, 2016

Worldwide, more than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; more than any time in recorded history. More than 11 million of them are displaced by the Syrian civil war – 4.8 million as refugees and 6.6 million within Syria. It’s easy to overlook some of the other challenges conflict brings to the region. While Iraq has absorbed about 300,000 Syrian refugees, there are also about 4 million Iraqis displaced within their own country. 

Recently I traveled to Northern Iraq with Chris Hale, executive director for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Jeremy Weber, senior editor at Christianity Today; and the photographer and writer Christine Anderson, to meet with families whose lives have been uprooted by conflict and insecurity.

To find out more about these people and their plight, here are links to pieces  authored by others on the trip: Chris Hale’s TIME magazine piece, Jeremy Weber’s cover story for Christianity Today, and Christine Anderson’s blog piece for World Vision.

©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
Three-year-old Syrian refugee Ali proudly holds the pencils and booklet he received from UNICEF at the Akre refugee camp in Dohuk. Akre, at one time a prison, was vacant for three years before it was transformed into a camp that is now home to 250 Syria refugee families.   
©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
An aerial view of Garmawa Refugee Camp in Dohuk. World Vision distributed 1,250 water tanks to help provide clean water for more than 7,600 people.
©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
Grandfather and granddaughter, Iraqi IDPs from Mount Sinjar, sit in their family’s tent in the Berseve Camp where World Vision helps provide Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) and education for more than 6,000 children. World Vision establishes Child-Friendly Spaces in conflict-affected areas to provide a safe environment for children to learn, play, and emotionally recover from traumatic events.
©2016 World Vision, Christine Anderson
Eida and her family sought safety the city of Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. “[They] burned down everything,” she says. We just took our IDs and escaped. We didn’t bring any memories with us, just our IDs and that’s it. Everything we have is donations. We didn’t take anything, even our pictures. What do I want? Do I want to work somewhere? No, I wish to go back home.”
©2016 World Vision, Christine Anderson
Raja and her baby receive care at a mobile clinic. “[My daughter] Zena was born here. I was almost six months pregnant when we left [home],” she says. “I was very afraid for her. I just wanted to bring her here to be born in peace in a safe place and to be able to survive. I just wanted to take care of her. I miss my place. I miss my village, I miss my friends, I miss everything there.”
©2016 World Vision, Christine Anderson
Father Janz, a Swiss priest, stands outside of the Deir Marmousa Monastery in Northern Iraq.  The small monastery in the city of Sulaymaniyah has hosted a number of Syriac Orthodox Christians and Syrian Catholic Iraqis who fled regional violence. “We have about 180 IDPs including 60 children, 40 families.  At most we had 230 people,” He says.
©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
Fifteen-year-old Mohammad stands outside the mobile health clinic in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, where World Vision provides free medical services to IDPs. He fled to to the area two years ago from Fallujah with nine other family members when fighting intensified. “We didn't take anything with us, just the car,” He says.
©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
Hashem and his youngest daughter along with nine members of his family live as IDPs in an unfinished building in Sulaymaniyah. He recalls the violence that forced his family to flee: “They took all our money, burned our houses. We were threatened at gunpoint, that’s why we got out of there. It's almost one year and three months that we are here. We don’t know when we are going to go back, when the government will allow us back. We just don't know the future it's like an unknown future.”
©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
After 4-year-old Lojane’s older sister was killed by a barrel bomb during clashes near their home on Iraq’s Mount Sinjar, she and her family fled to safety. They are among hundreds of thousands of Iraqis now homeless in their own country. They live in a camp in Dohuk., World Vision has helped provide fresh water to Lojane’s family and nearly 18,000 residents. 
©2016 World Vision, Steve Jeter
Five-year-old Ade, a Yazidi from Mount Sinjar, holds a photo of her eldest sister, Alamas, who was killed during a mortar attack. Ade and her family live in a camp in Dohuk.