I remember first hearing the news on a TV screen in America in the summer of 2014. ISIS, a rising Islamic terrorist group, had begun their violent attacks on minority groups in Northern Iraq. Their intent was to wipe out minority groups such as Christians, Yazidis, Kakai, and more as an Islamic religious cleansing. The only group they warned beforehand was Christians- stating either they abide by their laws, pay a high tax fine, or leave. The rest… were brutally attacked without warning and shown no mercy.
With the population of Kurds being around 30 million they are one of the largest people groups without a nation. A Kurdish saying “No friends but the mountains” is a sad and yet accurate truth. While facing external threats the Kurds found refuge and protection from their enemies in the mountains.
It was only about 9:30am but we found ourselves standing outside in 110 degree weather handing out water bottles and rice one by one to those who had been waiting all morning.The sun was blazing and the only shade anyone could find was standing close enough to the semi trailer we were unloading from. Our team had gotten to help some friends from another organization with a distribution. it was a new camp for us and it had only been open for about 4 months. This meant it had received people who most recently fled Mosul. These people had been under ISIS rule the longest and the newness of the camp also meant that they were met with less food, poor clean water treatment, insufficient bathrooms, and no air cooling systems not to mention a sentiment held by some that they were still apart of ISIS since they chose to stay so long.
The sun beamed down hard as we stepped out of our 15-passenger van, stepping foot on the ground of a refugee camp. Men passed by in groups, perhaps completing their day’s work or just passing time. Young boys played soccer on the dirt, creating their own goals out of rocks and sticks. The scent of fresh bread filled the air, as mothers were probably cooking away in their humble “homes” for dinner.
The Internally Displaced Peoples of Northern Iraq
We are often afraid of the unknown.
Cultures. Places. Religions.
Some of our fear is justifiable. Our world is in turmoil. We watched the Arab Spring from afar, at first in hope that a corrupt regime would be overturned. But the abscess of war left a gap for jihadists to fill. Offensive and defensive mixed together like spilled ink on paper, becoming muddled and unclear. Sporadic terrorist attacks plague peaceful nations, and people seeking asylum have flooded those same nations by the thousands. Despite officials stressing that most refugees are peaceful and law-abiding, there has been a notable rise in violence and rape amongst areas sheltering young men.