Iraq Crisis | Action Against Hunger

An uncertain future In Iraq

As winter approaches, new challenges face those displaced by violence. 

By Action Against Hunger

Oct 5 2014

​​Elias is 43 years old, his older brother, Khalaf, 59. Backed against the boards they have laid down between the pillars of the fourth floor, they purvey their concrete horizon. 

The brothers arrived late to Zakho, on August 20. They had stayed nearly two weeks in the mountains of Sinjar, until a safe path allowed them to flee. Parents, grandparents, young and old, the whole family then took the road. At least 50 of them walked. 

"We have no blankets"

"When we arrived here, we finally felt safe,” said Khalaf. “We were no longer under the threat of arms; people immediately came to help. But now winter is coming, it's raining, there is wind, soon it will be cold. We saw some families received clothes, but we have not. We do not have blankets. 

"For most, it’s just a t-shirt on our shoulders and we do not know how we will survive when the temperatures drop. The government has promised money but we have received nothing. All we have at the moment is distributed food and we thank you for that." 

What will happen to Elias, Khalaf and their family? Will they have the opportunity to leave the building, still under construction, in which they have sought refuge? Or will they be forced to build a makeshift shelter made of pieces of wood and bricks? 

Elias’ wife, who is heating water just a few metres away from her husband, shares his concern. She has arranged a makeshift kitchen from a few bricks.

As the family do not have a gas stove, she and her children leave regularly to collect firewood. Several neighbours do the same, and the smoke produced by fires on other levels of the building billows up the stairs. It makes your eyes itch and the air is thick, until a gust of wind sweeps away everything in its path. 

The brothers’ children gather around them and Elias watches them for a moment.  "The most important thing is to find something to dress them up for the coming months," he says, watching them.

"What we have seen, we will never forget, until we die."

The whole family hopes to return to Sinjar eventually, even though that seems difficult at the moment. Elias said: "What we have seen, we will never forget, until we die."

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Photo credits:  © Florian Seriex