Following the defeat of the so-called Islamic State, minorities across Iraq, especially in the northern Nineveh Plains, are attempting to rebuild and move on with their lives.
Among these minorities are the Shabaks, a minority group that has lived in northern Iraq for approximately five centuries. Shabaks are Muslims with a small majority of Shiites and a minority of Sunnis. While their main language differs from both Arabic and Kurdish, they live – and have lived – with other religious minorities like Christians, Yazidis and Kaka’is in harmony in Nineveh Province for centuries.
These Shabaks, as with other Iraqi minorities, were part of ISIS’ brutal campaign of annihilation to destroy any ethno-religious group that it considered anathema to its puritanical form of Islam. According to recent, local statistics, over half of Nineveh’s minority population has either fled or been killed.
Many Shabak towns and villages, such as Baz Jarkan, were heavily destroyed, leaving behind ruins and rubble for local residents who have returned to their homes, although many lambast the help they have received in rebuilding their homes.
“This village is home to Shabak, and the neighbourhood as well. We have been living in this area for a long time,” said one man. “As you can see, this village is completely destroyed. We want the government to start rebuilding and provide us with water and electricity.”
Despite the difficult road ahead, the threat of ISIS has waned considerably since the group’s defeat in December 2017. For those that have returned, the task of reconstruction will be immense. But many have celebrated their own religious celebrations in freedom for the first time in years.