More than 100,000 Christians have fled to the Kurdistan Region as Islamic State militants drive minority communities out of Nineveh province in Northern Iraq.
The United Nations and local NGOs in are struggling to accommodate over half a million internally displaced people who have fled to areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government and their Peshmerga forces. Thousands have come to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. Although basic humanitarian aid has been delivered most refugees who escaped the Islamic State, countless Christians families are sleeping in the sidewalks of Erbil’s Christian quarter, Ainkawa, with nowhere else to go.
Yusud Serkiz, a resident of one of the region’s largest Christian towns, Qaraqosh, is desperate to return.
“Thank God everyone is doing their best to give us food, but we want to return to our homes,”
For Karramah Tuma and other refugees living in Erbil’s streets, sleep is even harder to come by because of the memories of leaving relatives and friends behind.
“My elderly father is 75 years old. He was left in Qaraqosh and we know no traces of him, we only know all of his sheep are taken away. He stayed because he didn’t want to abandon his flock.” While many Christians from Nineveh have escaped the Islamic State to the safety of Kurdistan, the ones who refused to leave face two choices: convert or die.
Christians who elected to leave were forced to leave property behind. The majority had all their valuable belongings confiscated by Islamic State fighters as they left.