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Lucky to be alive - Iraqi refugees from ISIL tell their stories

Lucky to be alive - Iraqi refugees from ISIL tell their stories
By Robert Hackwill
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The road to safety in Syria from ISIL-held Iraq can be long and dangerous, and the ordeal does not always end at the border.


Iraqis are continuing to flee the zones under ISIL control in Iraq as the war rages around them, and at one crossing point into Syria more than a thousand have arrived in the last 48 hours. They are now in territory controlled by the Kurds which is considered stable and safe.

This mother lived through a nightmare to save her children.

“We were tired of the shooting and of ISIL. If they saw a car transporting cigarettes they would just take it, and if they saw a car that was transporting people they would take that too. They took government money also. And they took money from the people as (tax). People were hungry and there was no help,” says Fatima Ibrahim Khalaf.

They will be sent to Al Hawl refugee camp, already home to thousands of other Iraqis.
Khaked Khalas Inat made the already dangerous journey here with his small children.

“It was a tough journey. It was like torture. We had to walk a long distance and we had to pay money to the smugglers to guide us here. And we suffered all the way until reaching here,” she says.

Most of the refugees come from Tal Afar, a district west of Iraq’s second city Mosul, besieged but still in the hands of ISIL.

Iraqis fleeing ISIL have also been settled further west, in Safira near Aleppo.

Elham Saleh has been settled there in a house with her family for a year. She makes loofahs she sells for nine centimes each. Like many others she had to pay ISIL a ransom; 280 euros blood money to save her and son Abdullah’s lives and leave.

“I was married and used to live in Deir Hafer. My husband joined ISIL so I decided to run away from him, and in our area women were frowned on and ordered to covered their faces,” she says.

Samia al-Moussa suffered an even worse fate. A mother-of-six, she had to escape after her school director husband Abdul-Fattah was beheaded in 2014. She and Abdul-Fattah’s brother tell the story.

“We were at home around 11 o’clock at night and we felt a car come close to the house. ‘Abdo, come with us’ they shouted”, says Samia, “but when he asked ‘Where?’ they said it was none of his business. He went with them and we never saw him again.”

“Before my brother was executed he said that ISIL were infidels and have nothing to do with Islam. They have no faith at all. They said that he was giving information to direct aircraft and was an agent for the government,” says Nafeh al-Moussa.

In the last two months 3,500 families have left ISIL-controlled zones in northern Syria to find refuge in Safira.

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