SHINGAL -- Out of some 350 families who have returned to the Yezidi town of Shingal, liberated from ISIS in 2015, all are Yezidis, except for Qasim Khalil’s family, who are Muslim Kurds.
Khalil fled the town along with other residents more than two years ago when ISIS militants overran Shingal, killing and capturing many residents and carrying out genocide against the Yezidi people.
“We are a Muslim family and have come back to our hometown,” Khalil said. “Co-existence is good here with Yezidis. They show us a lot of respect. We ask our people to return to their homeland. We are all one. We do not discriminate one from another.”
Khalil’s wife also said she is happy to have returned home, reminding her of memories she shared with other residents, some of whom are Yezidis.
“We are enjoying seeing each other like before.” she said, “We want the rest of the people to come back. We want our Shingal to go back to what it used to be.”
People from different religious groups have lived together for centuries in Shingal. There 30 Yezidi shrines, 11 mosques, and one church in the town that is now largely in ruins. The fear, however, is that the recent genocide may make it difficult for old neighbours to trust each other again.
For now, for the few who have returned to Shingal, they say they are happy living with each other, hoping that more people will join them.
“We are a Yezidi family living with other Yezidi families, too,” one woman said. “And there is also a Muslim family, Khalil's family with whom we visit.”
“Shingal people will never leave Shingal,” a Yezidi man who has made Shingal his home again, said, adamant that they are attached to their hometown, also home to some of the holiest sites in the Yezidi faith.