Lalish, a small village in northern Iraq, is the spiritual capital of the Yazidi people. The ethnic and religious minority believe it was the only place to survive the Great Flood, and that it was where Noah landed his ark to recreate humanity.
Now, it is just as much a refugee camp as it is a sacred site. Since the Islamic State organisation (IS) launched its offensive in Iraq earlier this summer, around a thousand people have fled to Lalish to seek shelter.
“I don’t know why [IS] is doing this to us. We don’t understand their mentality. They are killing our men and even our women,” said the Yazidis’ spiritual leader, also known as the Baba Sheikh.
Over the past month, the Baba Sheikh has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Iraq’s 700,000 Yazidis – 400,000 of whom are now displaced. He described IS’s campaign against his people as a genocide.
Some of those who have taken refuge in Lalish now hope to emigrate to a brighter future.
“We’re afraid, this is why we all want to go. If we felt protected we wouldn’t want to leave but we’re not protected here in Iraq,” said one woman.
While some of the displaced dream of a life far away, there are others, like Khayni Murad, who are determined to stay and fight.
“I tell you I actually already fought [IS]. It was three in the morning when they came, and we fought until seven. I swear to God that we are ready to fight them if any country provides us with weapons to form an army. I will fight until my last breath,” he said.
Date created : 2014-08-27