For many Christian families in Qaraqosh, this Easter is particularly special, as they will be celebrating it at home for the first time since fleeing the city in 2014.
The city, located in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, was occupied by the Islamic State group for over two years before its liberation in October 2016.
Since then, around 5,000 families have returned to the city that used to be a home to 50,000 Christians. They are now rebuilding their lives amidst the ruins and rubble that IS left behind.
Yesterday (25 March), the Palm Sunday celebrations saw thousands of Christians take to the streets of the ancient city, where they marched, waving palm and olive branches, and chanted Christian songs. The march culminated in an open-air religious service on the square of St. John’s Church.
Andraws Basem Matty Kassab, a 25-year-old English teacher at a recently re-opened school, said that he and his family had almost lost hope of ever returning to their home town.
Meanwhile, Anis Behnam, a 58-year-old university lecturer who returned to Qaraqosh last year, said he is determined to stay in his town, whatever the circumstances.