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When the city of Sinjar, Iraq, was captured by ISIS in August 2014, many Yazidi families fled for safety.
Among them were Khalil Sadoon and Lela Dawod, from a village close to the city, whose family unit consists of 15 people, including children and grandchildren.
Hearing that ISIS were forcing Yazidis to convert to Islam or face death, the whole family left their home in the middle of the night, crossing the mountains into Syria and back again to get to safety in the Kurdish Region of Iraq .
The journey took them nine days.
Lela with her grandchild Musafer
Almost 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis along with Shia Muslims and some Kurds, fled from the fighting in Sinjar city and surrounding areas. In all, more than three million people are now displaced in Iraq.
It is almost a year since Khalil and Lela fled their village. They believe the home which took them many years to complete is now destroyed. They now live close to Dohuk city where they have been given permission to occupy an unfinished house.
In November 2014, the family received support from Trócaire to help them purchase basic items like clothes, blankets, mattresses, a stove and a heater. This assistance was much appreciated with the harsh winter season approaching.
Aziz (13) with baby Musafer (8 months), Marlin (8), Maher (7), Suher (5), and Obama (2)
Since that time, one of Khalil’s sons has managed to find work with a building contractor. He gets about 10 days work a month and takes home about USD $170. This is the only source of income for this large family.
Since leaving their home, Khalil and Lela’s children of school-going age have not attended any lessons. The local school is a distance away and cannot cope with the huge influx of internally displaced people.
If they are unable to return to Sinjar under protection from the international community, Khalil fears the only other option available to them is to leave the country to try to find refuge in Europe.