BATNAYA, Iraq – The scars of war are still visible on Batnaya, but for one 80-year-old resident, it is and always will be home.
“I won’t let anyone take one metre of this land,” said Marjan.
Before ISIS, 5,000 people lived in Batnaya. Now, it is empty and half the population is in a camp in Tel Skuf. The rest have migrated to other areas of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
Marjan lives in Tel Skuf but comes back to see Batnaya often.
Peshmerga defeated ISIS in this village two years ago, but few villagers have returned to their homes.
The United States funded some reconstruction – renovating a school and 400 of the village’s 1,000 houses.
“We have recently made some progress where it should now be possible to work on the issues that confront Batnaya, as we have worked with Tel Skuf, as we have worked with Bashiqa, as we have worked with other communities in the Nineveh plains and other communities across Iraq,” said US Ambassador Douglas Silliman during a visit to Batnaya this week.
Insecurity and lack of services means people are slow to return to their homes, even two years after ISIS was defeated here. But Marjan hopes that someday her village will be beautiful again.