ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Yezidi (Ezidi) woman and her four children were reunited with their family on Wednesday at a displaced persons camp in the Kurdistan Region’s Shekhan district.
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Iraq’s Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) in August 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the Ezidi community and the killing of thousands.
Dilven Qasim and her children were among those who the extremist group had kidnapped and taken to Syria where they endured a difficult life.
“For a few months, we remained in Baghouz. Our condition was unjust. We were all hungry. A lot of people died from hunger. We lived a torrid life,” she told Kurdistan 24.
Following the recent offensive against the so-called Islamic State in Syria’s Baghouz, the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces rescued dozens of Ezidis who the terror group had kidnapped.
After they were rescued, Qasim and her four children were taken to the Al Hol camp in northeastern Syria where they remained for a period of time before they were transferred to the Ezidi House, a shelter in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) which reunites rescued Ezidis with their families. She was eventually reunited with her family at the Shekhan camp in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok governorate.
“Thank God, I am delighted,” Qasim said with a lowered gaze and her face resting in her right palm. “My four children and I came here and are very happy. Thank God, we are reunited with our relatives. Thank God.”
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During the height of the Baghouz offensive, which reached its end in March, an airstrike from a Global Coalition aircraft led to the death of one of Qasim’s children. Her 13-year-old son Safwan helped bury his brother.
“I am thrilled today that I am back home,” he told Kurdistan 24 with a beaming smile. “I am delighted. Thank God, I’m here!”
His mood changed though when he recalled the story of his brother’s death, lowering his head as he recollected the events.
“We were on our way to a neighbor’s house when an airstrike dropped on the area,” Safwan said. “My brother was trapped under rubble where we retrieved him then buried his grave.”
At the Shekhan camp, the children were reunited with their grandmother, Wansa Khalaf. The Islamic State had kidnapped 22 members of her family. Until now, six of them are still missing. With the return of her grandchildren, some of her hardships are alleviated.
“I have waited five years for them. I am flying with happiness today. I am so happy,” she told Kurdistan 24. “I am indebted to all those who brought my family home.”
“Six of my relatives are still missing, and one has been martyred in Syria. I pray those who are still missing are returned as well.”
According to the Kurdistan Region’s office in charge of their rescue and repatriation, at least 3,478 Ezidis have been rescued so far from an estimated total of 6,417 kidnapped or otherwise missing.
(Additional reporting by Maha Shingali)