The last Christian family remaining in an IDP camp north of Erbil have turned to the local government and aid organisations as they have been asked to leave the camp but have nowhere to go, Kurdish news website Rudaw reports.
Sena Behnam and her husband said they have to stay in the camp, located in the town of Ankawa in the Kurdistan Region, as their home in Mosul has been destroyed, and they cannot afford to rent.
“What happened was not in my hands. We didn’t want to leave [Mosul],” Behnam told Rudaw. “They [IS] forced us to leave.
“There are very few of us left seeking somewhere. Our homes and churches have been destroyed. How can we return to Mosul?”
Thousands of Christian homes and 120 churches and Christian shrines have been “ruined” by IS in Mosul, according to Durayed Hikmat, former advisor to the governor of Mosul. Reconstruction of all of those properties will cost an estimated 15 billion Iraqi dinars (US$13 billion).
“Only 40 families returned to the city of Mosul, who later returned to the Kurdistan Region because of the hardship they faced upon their return,” Hikmat said.
The camp where the Behnam family lives has provided shelter to around 1,300 families, 100 of whom are still there. But now the administration of the camp has asked all remaining families to leave, as the international community “is no longer providing support”, said the mayor of Ankawa.
According to Rudaw, after the invasion of Iraq by IS, around 130,000 Christians fled to the Kurdistan Region. People, however, are still concerned about returning to their homes in certain areas because of reports of attacks by IS “remnants”, Rudaw reported.
‘I’m tired of having to leave and return again and again’
In Tel Skuf, a town north of Mosul, even the reconstruction efforts carried out by a local charity do not encourage people, the youth in particular, to resettle in the town permanently, according to Rudaw.
“I’m tired of having to leave and then having to return again and again. We all got tired and we are getting old,” said Selima Loqa from Tel Skuf. “Every time we leave and then return, we buy houses over and over again. What can we do? Situations like this must end.”
Recently, the destroyed St. Jacob’s Church in Tel Skuf has been rebuilt which, the constructors hope, may “encourage people to return”.