In the wake of the harrowing conflict and the lingering danger of explosive remnants, Sinjar’s path to recovery has been marked by stories of resilience, hope, and the tireless efforts of organizations like Shareteah Humanitarian Organization (SHO)- HAMAP’s local partner in Iraq.
A short while ago, the Iraqi team from HAMAP-Humanitaire visited the site where SHO teams carried out their mine clearance operations, and removed 5 improvised explosive devices, tactically planted by ISIS.
The extensive clearance operations not only removed these deadly threats but also unveiled the awe-inspiring transformation in the lives of the local communities.
Meeting the Shepherd Brothers
Nazar and Hadhar Arab, hailing from Baaj, just south of Sinjar, shared their experiences. Hadhar emphasized the tremendous impact of land clearance on his family of 22 individuals. Previously, they had refrained from venturing into these lands due to the visible explosives. The clearance not only granted them access but also kindled hopes of repairing wells, as they currently transport water for their livestock. Hadhar emphasized the invaluable assistance provided by the SHO operations team : “Having cleared pathways is very crucial, especially during the challenging summer months for securing water for our livestock. We now confidently deliver water using our truck without any lingering safety concerns.”
While the houses within the hazardous zone await renovation, locals have begun utilizing the land responsibly. Hadhar nostalgically recalled how, prior to the war, they would graze their animals in harmony with the local residents. The clearance efforts not only restored their freedom of movement but also reopened vital routes for water supply.
Post-Clearance Revival, Joyful Farmers Comeback:
Kamal Jalal Hseen, a farmer and head of his household, painted a vivid picture of his journey. Forced to flee to Sinjar Mountain during the conflict, he eventually returned to Sinjar in 2016 after liberation. Kamal said, “I love farming and as soon as I heard the area (HA) was cleared by SHO teams, I wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to lease a farm and plan for farming”. Kamal further said that “prior to the clearance, the fear of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had prevented farmers, including those whose livelihoods depended on farming and shepherding, from accessing their land.”
With the area now safe, Kamal sensed no threats, a sentiment shared by his fellow farmers. He acknowledged that the clearance not only bolstered human confidence but also had a soothing effect on their animals.
The revival of Sinjar has brought newfound hope to the younger generation. Hayam Fawzi Mirza, Kamal’s wife, noted how children had once lived in fear, constrained by their parents’ warnings to stay indoors. Now, after the land clearance operations, children roam freely, and families are reclaiming their homesteads.
Khodeda Rasho, another farmer and father of eight, conveyed heartfelt gratitude for the clearing of their land. He believed that this effort had not only boosted the confidence of landowners but also paved the way for others to return. He passionately called for the expansion of clearance activities to encompass houses and hills that might still harbor danger.
Teacher and Activist Applauds SHO’s Sinjar Intervention:
Wansa Joqi Sleman, a primary school teacher and a dedicated Yezidie women activist, highlighted the crucial role of SHO activities, including Explosive Ordnance Risk Education and land clearance operations : “Since the successful land clearance operations, we have witnessed a profound transformation in our community. Children now enjoy the freedom to move without restrictions. People have reclaimed access to their lands, and shepherds can graze their livestock in the area without fear.”
She went on to express her heartfelt appreciation for the awareness sessions, particularly those that incorporate engaging and entertaining methods such as puppet shows. These sessions actively involve the children, making the information provided truly resonate with them.
Community Leader’s Perspective:
Abu Reyan, the Mukhtar of West Rambosi, welcomed us into his home and offered insights into the community’s perspective. He stressed the significant impact of clearance operations, particularly on safety and livelihoods.
He highlighted the challenges faced by the community, including limited financial support for rebuilding and the absence of promised compensation. Nevertheless, he expressed hope and appreciation for the mine clearance efforts, which have made the land safer and more accessible.
He further emphasized the importance of female involvement in demining, citing the changing dynamics in society since the conflict began in 2014. Women have taken on more active roles in various aspects of life, including driving and demining, showcasing their resilience and strength in the face of adversity: “As we departed from Sinjar, we left behind a community gradually regaining its foothold in a region once plagued by danger and despair. Through the collective efforts of organizations like SHO and the resilience of the people, Sinjar is on the path to recovery, one clear field at a time.”
Reviving Ancestral Heritage
Barakat Khalaf Ilyas, a dedicated landowner and family man with ten children, shares a compelling story of resilience and hope in the face of adversity. His journey mirrors the experiences of many in Sinjar, Iraq, as they strive to rebuild their lives and communities after the scourge of ISIS and the lingering threat of explosive remnants.
In 2014, the advance of ISIS forced Barakat and his family to flee their homeland, seeking refuge in the Duhok-Kurdistan Region. The years that followed were marked by uncertainty and hardship as they grappled with the devastation caused by the conflict. One major obstacle stood in the way of their return—the contamination of their cherished land by explosive remnants.
Barakat expresses his deep gratitude for the vital role played by SHO clearance operations in his journey. The meticulous work of demining teams, including SHO, ensured that the land he holds dear could once again become a safe and fertile haven. The removal of numerous Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) allowed him and his family to contemplate a brighter future.
According to Barakat, he remained closely involved with the clearance operations, receiving daily updates from the demining teams.