Nasim and his family fled their village when ISIS attacked. Where they’re living now isn’t home, but they’ve worked hard to make it more like home. And Tearfund have lent a hand too...
‘I told my children, don’t give up, keep going and you will be safe’, says Nasim, as he remembers how ISIS captured his village of Borek in July 2014. His wife and children fled along with 50 other families. They headed to Mount Sinjar, along with 50,000 Yazidis also fleeing ISIS, from where they were finally rescued.
I am sitting on the floor of Nasim’s temporary shelter, as he recounts his story of escape. His is one of hundreds of families forced by ISIS to flee through Syria. They finally settled in this informal camp in Ninewa, Northern Iraq two years ago, surrounded by ISIS soldiers awaiting rescue.
They have tried their best to make this camp their ‘home’ – for now at least; brightly coloured blankets have been hung around the walls. ‘We did not bring anything with us. This is nothing compared to our past life, but we are alive and that is what matters,’ says Nasim, motioning around his tent.
‘ISIS cut off the road. It was very chaotic, people and cars were going everywhere. They captured us, they were laughing at us and were shooting bullets into the air to panic us. But because of the confusion, we were able to flee again when they weren’t looking’. Nasim was able to use another car to drive to Mount Sinjar, where they continued on foot for four hours before hiding. ‘We could hear them shouting at the bottom of the mountain and shooting guns. I couldn’t think about myself, I could only think about how to save my family’, says Nasim.
Their four young children, who have been playing outside the entrance of the tent, poke their heads through the door and giggle. Nasim and his wife Asma laugh, before waving them away, shaking their heads.
‘When we arrived here there was nothing, it was like a desert’, says Asma, ‘there was no water and it made cooking and living very difficult’.
Tearfund began working across the area in mid-2015, and has installed 1050 latrines, 1800 water storage tanks, and negotiated a pipeline extension into the informal settlement, so now they have regular access to water.
'I couldn’t think about myself, I could only think about how to save my family’Nasim
Meanwhile 6500 households have also been reached through a hygiene promotion programme. ‘Although many people are educated, they are not used to living in such overcrowded living conditions’ says Liz Ryan, Iraq’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Advisor. ‘We are here to provide the basics and to stop the outbreaks of disease. We’re helping people get through very difficult times.’
I ask Asma to show me the water storage tanks, and she leads me outside. Her children join us as she checks the water level and shows me how it works. ‘It has helped so much, I can now do household tasks easily, and we don’t have to pay for water’ she says. Nasim agrees, adding ‘we feel like we have some kind of home here, because we now have the services we need to live.’
Despite all that Tearfund have done, their true home is not here – it’s a thought that’s never far from Nasim’s mind; ‘of course our wish is to go back to our home – to find our family members who have been kidnapped and live together again’. For now though, they are safe and healthy and their children are free to play.