ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Yezidi (Ezidi) youth group in the Nineveh Province launched a campaign to paint over reminders of the Islamic State’s (IS) presence in the north of Iraq with messages of hope and optimism.
The young Ezidis are currently active in the Snuny subdistrict near the infamous Sinjar (Shingal) mountain, where the genocide against the ethnoreligious minority at the hands of the jihadist group began.
“We are removing Daesh (IS) propaganda [from our areas], replacing them with messages of hope and the importance of education for our [community’s] children. We hope to reinvigorate this town,” sculptor Amal Alyas told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday.
International humanitarian organizations have already reached out to the group and offered to help their efforts to rid the town of the terrorist’s messages of hate and violence, Sahr Haskani, the youth group’s leader, stated.
On July 10, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the full liberation of Mosul city, the capital on Nineveh Province and the self-proclaimed capital of the IS caliphate in Iraq.
Almost a year later, the city remains a pile of rubble, and its people are still displaced, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) recently lamented.
As the one year anniversary approaches, Wolfgang Gressmann, the NRC’s Iraq Country Director, said the victory against IS had not translated into relief for the people in Mosul.
“They are still waiting to return to normality and the international community is not helping enough.”
In Mosul, IS propaganda litter the walls, as graffiti work in the city was extensive, a means for the jihadists to advertise and promote “the Caliphate.”
“Together, we cultivate the tree of the Caliphate,” read one of the slogans seen in Mosul.
Ezidis, having lived mostly in the disputed territory of Shingal, were one of the first victims of IS. Thousands of them remain displaced from their homes and their whereabouts unknown.
On Aug. 3, 2014, IS fighters stormed Shingal, kidnapping and enslaving thousands of Ezidi women and girls, carrying out large-scale executions of hundreds of Ezidis.
Peshmerga forces, with the support of US-led coalition airstrikes, retook Shingal in a military operation staged in November of 2015.
The Ezidi-majority city of Shingal was left devastated, destroyed by the fighting. Insecurity and the lack of services have made it nearly impossible for members of the ethnoreligious minority to return to their areas, which have often been described as “ghost towns.”
The youth group hopes these first steps will allow for a sense of normalcy to return to their town, encouraging locals and activists to engage in activities that revitalize their communities.
Iraq declared victory over IS in December 2017 after sustained campaigns by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, supported by the US-led coalition, weakened the organization considerably.
Editing by Nadia Riva