One year later, Struggle Continues for Yazidis

By Mohammed A. Salih for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Izzat Abbas, along with a group of men and children, took refuge in the shade by a prefabricated cabin in a refugee camp for displaced Yazidis. They chat and occasionally laugh while they try to keep their spirits up. But their sunburned faces show more exhaustion than content.

The temperature is 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) and there is no electricity, which causes the camp residents to flee cabins they described as being as hot as “ovens.”

“It’s just unbearable,” Abbas, 40, said of the excessive heat. “There is little electricity. We get it for three hours and then no electricity for the next three hours. We are given water [by the government] only one hour per day.”

Ismael Mohammed, the deputy governor of Dahuk who is in charge of matters involving the refugees and internally displaced persons, told Al-Monitor that nearly 450,000 Yazidis have been scattered around 14 camps in Dahuk province since Aug. 3, 2014, when they were uprooted by the Islamic State (IS) from their historical homeland in Sinjar in western Ninevah province. He said, “Many have also settled in the cities or outside Dahuk.”

Those in the Rwanga camp, halfway between the cities of Dahuk and Zakho close to the border with Turkey, are perhaps among the luckiest. They are living in prefabricated cabins, while the majority of the other camps are sprawling tent cities with little protection against the forces of nature.

A sense of loss and despair is common in those camps. As if losing their homes and valuables was not enough, many have to grapple with systemic obstacles that make their lives much harder. In their haste to escape from the invading IS fighters, Khalaf and his family, like many other Yazidis, lost their Iraqi national identity documents. Khalaf has been trying to obtain a new one, as in the rigidly bureaucratic Kurdish system the national ID card is needed for almost everything.

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