ReportageHunted from the region in 2017, ISIS left this strategic territory prey to settling scores between militias and the rivalry between Baghdad and Kurdistan of Iraq. Between destruction and insecurity, nothing encourages people to return home.
On the road that winds up to the ridge of Mount Sinjar, hundreds of tents in white tarpaulin break the bucolic charm of the hills flanked by small stone houses and blue thistles. At the northwestern tip of Iraq, on the border with Syria, 2,300 Yezidi families have found a temporary refuge on this mountain range that separates in two the district of Sinjar which, with that of Cheikhan, brings together the majority of this minority who paid a terrible tribute to the Islamic State (IS) organization.
Following the jihadist blitz on Sinjar on August 3, 2014, and the withdrawal of Kurdish security forces, Yazidi women were reduced to sexual slavery, their children kidnapped and "brought up" to become fighters, massacred families. Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, mostly Yazidi, fled. Since 2015, the north of the district was released; the south had to wait until 2017. The refugees are now waiting for a hypothetical return to their lands.
Five winters and five summers have passed since Kheiro Ketcho, a 32-year-old Yezidi shepherd from the southeastern village of Wardiya, settled with his wife and two children in a tent with mattresses. A TV is provided. His four brothers and their families live in terraced tents. Between odd jobs for an international humanitarian organization and the roadside grocery store, Kheiro Ketcho is struggling to make ends meet. This long-limbed man with big blue eyes, however, excludes to return to Wardiya. Only about twenty families of shepherds took the risk. "Apart from the main roads, the village is not cleared. Our house has no windows, no electricity. Nobody helps us rebuild »he explains, his eyes veiled with sadness.
Only one third of the 400,000 inhabitants of Sinjar have returned, or 19,000 families, mostly Yezidi: 4,500 in the south; 15,000 in the north, of whom 8,000 are from the south. North of Mount Sinjar, life begins again. Thanks to the help of about twenty international NGOs, electricity has been restored almost everywhere, as well as water, in half of the neighborhoods and localities. Health centers have reopened, but despite the relative safety of Sinoni, the administrative center of the north of the district, qualified personnel are scarce. "The specialists come from Mosul. There are Yazidi doctors, but mostly novices. The most experienced stay in Dohouk (in Iraqi Kurdistan) : for them, Sinjar is far away and they remain worried after the massacres in 2014 », says a humanitarian actor.