SURDASH CAMP, Kurdistan Region – Sevda and her friends are gazing into a mountain at a near distance where a short lived rainbow catches their eye, a moment enjoyed after some light rain, a source of joy. Moments later, this gift requires Hassan to take a small shovel for repairing the muddy, bumpy road inside this camp which hosts Kurds displaced due to conflicts arising last year.
The children are chatting outside.
“It is beautiful,” one of them says about the rainbow with their face towards the rocky mountain, something they don’t have in their desert-like home city of Khurmatu.
“It is sad when it fades,” another one replies. The chat is over then.
It is good here, Sevda said of the camp life, yet she is determined to go home.
“It is joyful there. We want to return to Tuz Khurmatu.”
It is not just the houses or the streets that make these children want to return. They want to do things they took for granted under otherwise normal circumstances in their city, about 90 km southeast of the camp they live in within Sulaimani province.
Mohammed is in his early teens. He is sitting on a school desk in the camp to have his first haircut since October 16, the day his city fell to the Iraqi forces and the Iran-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi who have since been accused of ethnically-targeting the Kurdish population, displacing tens of thousands of people.
“This is the first time I have had a haircut since three months. When I was in Khurmatu, I had a haircut twice a month,” Mohammed, a displaced child said, happy that volunteer barbers are finally in the camp.
In Surdash camp, there are 402 families from Khurmatu, Kirkuk and Daqu, all affected by the October military incursion. None of the families have returned home.
There are two primary schools that hosts 800 children in the camp, with classes taught in Kurdish and Arabic.
Authorities first opened the camp for the displaced from Hawija and Mosul, two cities liberated by the Iraqi forces from ISIS, after which they turned their guns on the Kurdish-controlled areas in the disputed areas following the Kurdish vote on independence.
“Adults are able to cope with the situation to some extent, but children can’t,” Jum’a Taha, a man also displaced from Khurmatu said, “Children have been deprived of their world of joy and playing for three months now.”