Elias Haji shows us the cradle he built for his newborn daughter, Averas, last month. It’s made from two-by-fours scavenged near the construction site where he lives with his wife, Shama Osma, and their nine children.
Shama gave birth to Averas there on February 21 because they couldn’t afford to pay for a hospital delivery.
They share the second floor of an unfinished building, and its single bathroom, with five other families. There are no walls in some sections, only concrete pillars holding up the floors above them. They are at the mercy of the weather—temperatures drop close to zero in northern Iraq in the winter—so the heater kerosene they received from CLWR is making a big difference. They are also thankful for the kits containing soap, toothpaste, towels, diapers and other hygiene items they received.
Elias and his family are Yazidi Iraqis. Elias holds his prayer beads as he tells us about fleeing their farm in Sinjar last August, to escape the horrific Islamic State (ISIS) attack that killed hundreds of Yazidis and trapped hundreds more on Sinjar mountain for months. Hundreds of women and girls were abducted and enslaved in the attack. Elias knows of more than 40 men, women and children from his community who were kidnapped and failed to escape. During our interview, he points out a child he says was held by ISIS and tortured by burning.
Elias and his family escaped through the Syrian border and then travelled back into northern Iraq to the Dohuk area, where they are now living. Elias is eager to work but there are few jobs. He is resourceful, though, and they are making do as best as they can. His baby daughter’s cradle, and their shelter in what should have been an uninhabitable building, is evidence of that.
Elias has no idea if his home back in Sinjar, where he farmed vegetables including tomatoes, ochre and eggplant, is still standing. He does hope to go back there soon. He just doesn’t know when that will be possible.
The distribution of heaters, kerosene, hygiene kits and other essential non-food items to people displaced in northern Iraq was made possible by $1.8 million in funding from the Canadian government via the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s International Humanitarian Assistance Program, as well as through donations from Canadian Lutherans. Our partners the Lutheran World Federation and CAPNI (Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq) carry out the distributions on the ground. This story was composed by CLWR Communications Officer Jennifer Clark from interview notes by Heather Patterson, CLWR’s Development Manager for International Refugee Response. The interview notes were translated from Arabic by Lutheran World Federation staff. Heather Patterson met with Elias and his family during the week of March 23, 2015.