Churches reaching capacity as Refugees flee from IS

Refugee Relief: Part 4

Raja* is a young woman from Mosul. For a few years now she has been living in the safer North of Iraq. After the extremist Islamists of IS took over Mosul in June, the majority of the remaining Christians of Mosul also fled to the North. Raja is helping in the relief program for these refugees that is supported by Open Doors and shares about her experiences.

“We slept on the roof, IS had cut the electricity off, so it was too hot to sleep inside.” She started sharing her story of the night they left Mosul. “At 1:30 am shelling started and bombs were flying near our house”. They went downstairs to get whatever they could take from their house to leave Mosul. “It was dark and there was no electricity so we used some small lights. We just wanted to run away to save our lives.” Arriving at the IS checkpoint everything was taken from them. The only thing the mother could hide was her wedding ring. She had put it in the diaper of my 10 months old baby.

Children sleeping under highway fly-over

Families forced to flee. Sleeping children seek shelter under a highway fly-over in the Kurdish region.

 

“We were all crying and upset, especially the girls and the baby. My daughter cried saying, ‘mom, we want our clothes’.” The soldiers would not yield. The girls’ grandfather, 80 years old, that had fled from Mosul with them started to get really angry, demanding that they would give everything back that they stole from them. But they firmly told him; ‘do not speak or we are going to hurt you!’ Then someone from ISIS took the new iPad that the father had bought recently as a gift. Here is when the 8-year old girl couldn’t take it any more: she got really got mad, lying down on the ground screaming and getting crazy. Only at that point the man threw the tablet on her, while saying in a hard voice ‘Take it!’ I have heard a lot of stories about Christians passing the checkpoints, but I’ve never heard an ISIS soldier being convinced by a child.

Now the girl and her family have found shelter in the hall of a church in Erbil. They were lucky, because some churches don’t have places anymore. Friends that fled from Mosul came to our house last week and my brother called the church to see if they had any places left for them, but the church was full. They had 300 people staying in the hall already! The daughter of this family is still on her way to the North with her husband and children. It isn’t easy to escape and get safely to the Kurdish region. Now people start worrying that IS will also attack us here. Some families already fled further into the Kurdish region and there are big queues at travel agencies. I myself also don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to prepare for the moment that IS will come here, I hope they never will. It is so hard and I need to pray and ask God to HELP, we really need HELP!

*Name Changed

Read More from Refugee Relief: Iraq

Please Note: IS = the Islamic State, previously known as ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). The group started referring to themselves as just ‘The Islamic State’ after they declared their conquered territories a state the on the 29th of June. In the Arab world IS is often referred to as ‘DA’ASH’, the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

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