Iraqi Christians Flee the City of Qaraqosh

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June 28, 2014
Erbil, Kurdistan

Iraqi displaced Christians take refuge in a sports center in the Ankawa town of Erbil, Kurdistan.
According to the UN refugee Agency (UNHCR) "As many as 10,000 people, many of whom are women and children, fled the majority Christian city of Qaraqosh, in northern Iraq, after it was attacked with mortar rounds".
According to the families, violent clashes erupted between Sunni militants and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the city of Qaraqosh, earlier on Thursday June 26.
Qaraqosh is a historic Assyrian town with a population of 50,000 people, located some 30 kilometers southeast of Mosul, which was seized by ISIL fighters.

Interviews:

• Salah, Christian refugee from Qaraqosh: "We escaped fearing the shelling of the area. We left our homes fearing the shelling that is indiscriminate. It's extreme, it's a full-on war between the Peshmerga and the others. I don't know what the outcome of this battle will be. I'm from Qaraqosh, from an area called Sermer. There's a lot of fear in the area because it's on the frontline for Qaraqosh. We hope we can go back home. This situation hasn't happened anywhere else in history, it is insane. We're getting help but it doesn't serve us, what serves us is being back home. We don't want help, we want to be able to return home.

• Snaa' Behnam, Christian refugee from Qaraqosh: "First armed men arrived, we don't know if it's the national security forces, the army or ISIS. The clashes started and the residents got displaced. We left and went wherever we can go. We eventually went to Insert Location Name. It all happened in ten days, we got shelled and we don't know by whom. Everyone left in the clothes they're in, there was a huge explosion and we probably lost our homes. Other people didn't leave and left their faith to God. We left fearing for the lives of the children, specially the girls, they're too young. We lost our homes in the battle between the Kurds and we don't know who's on the other side.

• Bassima Mikhael, Christian refugee from Qaraqosh: "We were living in Qaraqosh, we heard gunshots so we left. We're displaced. We left Qaraqosh out of fear of the shelling and the fighting. We are fine here thank God, we're safe and we have food and water but the situation back home is not very good. We hope this will get solved soon so we can go back home. A shell fell behind my brother's house, we left without taking anything with us. Our house is close to the frontline, to the militias, so we left early and became displaced. We've been here for two days and before that we stayed for a day in a tent in the desert. We went back to Qaraqosh, picked out our stuff for five minutes packed some stuff and ran back."

• Janan Peter, Christian refugee from Qaraqosh: "There was shelling from both sides, the Islamist side and the Kurdish side, and the town itself is in danger of falling into the hands of the Islamists so most of the area’s residents, about 70 percent, left. We cam to Erbil. We had to get out of the area, maybe even the country and go to Turkey, we took our passports and left. We don't have anywhere to stay. We're collectively living here. We hope this will end soon so we can go back home. The humanitarian help is good and we are satisfied but morally we are tired and on a low."