PURGATORY

Iraqi Christians tell a photographer what they hope for in 2016

When ISIL overruns a new city, the Christians living there get three options: Convert to Islam, pay a fine or death.

When in August 2014 members of the terror group overtook Qaraqosh, the largest Christian-majority city in Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians fled. They sought refuge in the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, where they were sent to Ankawa Camp for internally displaced persons (IDP).

But as one camp manager tells visiting American photographer Cengiz Yar, “Life here is like living as an animal, just sleeping and eating.” Without work or meaningful activity, Ankawa is a featureless purgatory for the refugees of Qaraqosh. Yar’s touching portraits and interviews reveal homesickness, and often, determination to find a route to the West.

Sivan - 26
Sivan, 26. “I want to go back to our land. There are no jobs here, it’s not like our home.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Adnan, 52. “I wish to go back to my home and live a life of dignity.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Nawer - 20
Nawer, 20. “I want all people to be able to go back to their homes. I want to leave and go anywhere but here.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Diurr - 15
Diurr, 15. “I just want to go home.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Imam - 6 (daughter) - Wolfa - 46 (mother)
Imam, 6. “I want Santa Claus to come and give me a gift. I want to leave Iraq.” Wolfa, 46. “If they don’t liberate our land, we want to leave.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Naher - 46
Naher, 46. “I want to leave Iraq because the situation for us is going to keep getting worse. I tried to go to Germany but was arrested in Greece. They kept me in prison for 50 days and then sent me back here.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Rami, 17. “I want to go back to our home.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Dan, 13. “I don’t want anything except to go back to Qaraqosh.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Sari, 21. “In 2016, I want to go home.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Nur, 22. “I want all Iraqis to live in safety.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Danny - 11
Danny , 11. “I want to leave Iraq and I want to go to Canada. I heard that the Canadian government gives money to help children and protects them.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Andros - 20
Andros, 20. “If they won’t let us go back home, I want them to let us leave Iraq.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Majid - 51
Majid, 51. “I just want some food for my kids.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Abdulla - 60
Abdulla, 60. “I wish for all of Iraq to live in peace and for us to be able to go back to our houses. I want there to be no difference in treatment between religions.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Kaka, 7. “I just want to go back home.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Nagham - 35
Nagham, 35. “We hope in 2016 there will be peace in all the world especially in Iraq. I want to go back to our home because we are suffering here. We just hope for goodness, to live in happiness.” (Cengiz Yar)

 

Nahed - 41
Nahed, 41. “We hope for help and for an end to the suffering. I just want this situation to be finished.” (Cengiz Yar)

An estimated 4 million Iraqis are refugees within the country, along with more than 288,000 Syrian refugees across Iraq.

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