Sena Behnam, a Christian from Mosuk, sits in her Ashti 2 Camp home in Ainkawa, Erbil, November 24, 2018. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Sena Behnam and her husband are the only Christians from Mosul left in Ashti 2 Camp in Ainkawa, a neighborhood in the north of Erbil.
They yearn to return to the city, but the destruction of their home in the ISIS war forces them to remain in the camp.
“What happened was not in my hands. We didn’t want to leave,” Sena told Rudaw.
“They forced us to leave. We are people from Mosul. There are very few of us left seeking somewhere. Our homes and churches have been destroyed. How can we return to Mosul?”
Sena misses the community that grew up in the camp before other Christian families moved on.
“We were comfortable at the camp, we were visiting each other and we were like friends. Our life changed after we separated from each other,” she said.
Cuts to humanitarian aid in the camp are another worry. Paying rent for a house in the Kurdistan Region is beyond Sena and her husband’s financial means.
They are turning to the local government and aid organizations to offer them “an ordinary life”. This support, however, seems to have run out.
“Actually, the administration of the camp has asked the 100 families of the 1,200 families that have already left the camp to leave as well,” said Jalal Habib, the mayor of Ainkawa.
“The international community is no longer providing support. The camp administration submitted a statement to the governor [of Erbil Newzad Hadi] and the migration department that the camp is already being emptied,” he added.
US Vice President Mike Pence, an Evangelical Catholic, has dedicated funds to assist Nineveh’s religious minorities persecuted by ISIS. It is not clear where this money is being spent.
The last census in Iraq was in 1987, when 1.5 million Christians were counted.
Prior to ISIS, local groups estimate the Christian population stood at 400,000-600,000. Roughly half have left Iraq since 2014, and around 130,000 sought shelter in the Kurdistan Region.