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Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return


Although the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents, members of a religious and ethnic minority who fled from the militants, will now return home.

On a recent day when buses pulled alongside a camp in Diyarbakir, Turkey, that has been home to many Yazidi refugees, some residents said goodbye to their relatives and prepared to board. But Sinjar wasn't their destination. Fear still keeps them from their homes.

“When we first escaped from Sinjar, Islamic State did withdraw at some point, but attacks happened again, even then," said Naval Hidir, one of the refugees. "We would go back only if we are given the control of the region and if security is provided."

Hidir and the other refugees hope to go to Europe. Their first stop will be Istanbul, where they will apply for Iraqi passports, then figure out a way to reach their hoped-for destination.

Zareef Halef, who escaped from Sinjar on foot, has been living in the refugee camp for more than a year and said she still feared for her life.

“We don’t know what would happen to us if we go back to Iraq," she said. "Sinjar has been liberated, but our daughters, our women are still in the hands of ISIS. How can we say we are saved while they still have them? For us, Sinjar is over, done.”

In the meantime, the refugee camp, where nearly 3,000 Yazidis live, is like a small town. There is a school, a small infirmary, even a barbershop.

It's better than what they left behind, but everyone still hopes to leave the camp — someday.

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