Desolation in Sinjar: Yazidis Struggle to Rebuild Amid Political Stalemate

Eido says sadly, “How can my heart be at peace... when there is no one here to be with so that we can forget what happened?”
Photo of a destroyed family home in Sinjar. (Photo: SAFIN HAMID/AFP)
Photo of a destroyed family home in Sinjar. (Photo: SAFIN HAMID/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Every time Bassem Eido stands before the door of his house in his almost deserted village, he is astonished by the size of the rubble around him, a scene that has become familiar in the Yazidi-majority Sinjar region years after the end of the war.

In the courtyard of his house in Solagh—Eastern Caves, located 400 kilometers northwest of Baghdad—20-year-old Eido sighs, “Out of eighty families, only ten have returned.” He adds, "There are no homes for them to live in. Why would they return? They do not want to leave the tents (of the displaced) to live in tents over the ruins of their homes."

The ISIS terrorist organization invaded the region in 2014, specifically targeting minorities, especially the Yazidis, killing them, displacing them, and kidnapping many of their women as “slaves.”

In November 2015, Kurdish forces from the Kurdistan region, with support from international coalition forces led by Washington, expelled the jihadists from Sinjar.

In August 2017, the Iraqi government announced the expulsion of ISIS from all of Nineveh Governorate, where Sinjar is located, before declaring “victory” over the jihadists at the end of the same year.

Despite these victories, entire villages and neighborhoods remain destroyed, while political conflicts hamper the reconstruction process in an area that has witnessed many tragedies.

In Solagh, the scene still resembles war: destroyed houses, rusty water pipes and tanks, and wild grasses between the cracks in the walls.

Eido says sadly, “How can my heart be at peace... when there is no one here to be with so that we can forget what happened?” Only a few families were able to rebuild their homes, while others chose to pitch tents over the rubble.

Eido and his family returned to Solagh years ago to honor his sick father’s wish to spend his last days in his village. Fortunately for the family, they found their house completely burned but not destroyed, unlike most houses in the village.

With help from a humanitarian organization, Eido rehabilitated his home. However, the majority of the village's residents are unable to rebuild their homes, even though "all they need to do is build one or two rooms," he explains. "If the government or organizations had undertaken the reconstruction, all residents would have returned."

The Iraqi authorities recently set a deadline of July 30 to close the displacement camps, promising financial aid and incentives to those returning to their villages.

The government has repeatedly pledged to intensify reconstruction efforts and pay compensation to those affected.

The Ministry of Immigration recently announced the return of hundreds to their areas. However, more than 183,000 Sinjar residents are still displaced, according to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration.

The report indicates that several areas received half or less of their original population, but no return has been recorded to at least 13 locations since 2014.

The acting mayor of Sinjar, Nayef Sidou, says, "Entire villages and neighborhoods have been razed to the ground, and the compensation file is lagging behind. The majority have not received their dues."

When ISIS invaded Sinjar in August 2014, Hadla Qasim lost at least forty members of her family, including her father, mother, and brother, in the village of Kocho.

The 40-year-old mother of three children said that three years ago she applied for compensation for the destroyed family home, with support from the Norwegian Refugee Council, which provides legal services to the people of the region, but to no avail.

She is also still waiting to receive the monthly compensation paid to the families of the “martyrs.” But her request, like many others, is still stuck in the maze of administrative bureaucracy.

“We are devastated,” Qasim says from her home, which she returned to years ago. “We got absolutely nothing.” She adds sadly, "They did not dig up all the graves, the files of the martyrs are not finished, and not everyone in the camps has returned... We need a solution."

Sinjar experienced displacement twice: first, when ISIS attacked it in August 2014 and committed widespread massacres, and second, following the events of October 2017, which enabled illegal armed groups to control the city, further aggravating the situation.

Sinjar is one of the disputed areas between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, and it needs at least ten billion dollars to rehabilitate its infrastructure.

In October 2020, Erbil and Baghdad concluded an agreement aimed at restoring stability to Sinjar. Among other goals, the agreement included removing illegal armed groups from the city.

According to the agreement, a security force of 2,500 people, some of whom are displaced, must be formed in Sinjar, but it has not been formed yet.

As families like Eido’s and Qasim’s struggle with the slow pace of reconstruction and political stalemate, their hopes for a peaceful and stable future in Sinjar remain uncertain.