By Jaco Klamer
Briefing for our Donors
“I REALLY WANT to go back to the city of my birth, Qaraqosh,” says a smiling Majid Shaba (45), who runs a fast food establishment in Erbil, capital of Kurdistan. He continues: “When ISIS invaded Qaraqosh I had to leave the city, in which I was in charge of a fast food restaurant, Chefcity. I didn’t leave my city out of my own free will. My new restaurant in Erbil has been doing reasonably well, but you simply cannot compare life in Erbil to life in Qaraqosh: it is not a good alternative. That’s why I want to return to Qaraqosh, to the Nineveh plains: I was born there; I want to live and die there. Qaraqosh is my city.”
Majid has only gotten back days ago to make his old home inhabitable again. His wife, Asmaa Alias (40), has joined him, along with their children Dima (10) and Shaban (4). Their oldest son, Yousif (14), has stayed behind in their temporary home in Erbil’s Christian neighborhood of Ankawa. “I long to live in Qaraqosh again,” says Asmaa with a big smile
Samir Alias Polis (49), his wife Thaira Alias Karromi (43) and their three children are helping their brother- and sister-in-law to clean their house. Samir works as a cleaner in Erbil and found temporary shelter in an apartment of the local church. “The militias are strong,” he sighs, scrubbing the pavement. “I’m not sure we are safe.” He is not as enthusiastic as Majid about returning to Qaraqosh and sometimes he thinks about moving abroad.
Majid still has a lot of work to do in his fast food restaurant, which is called Chefcity. Things are still quite a mess. In the house next door, Raafat Foufael (32) and his uncle Badry Sloulaka (62) are also working hard to clean up the mess the jihadists left behind. Before the occupation by ISIS, the building was used for hosting parties. Raafat shows us the special bench reserved for newlyweds. “Luckily, it has been spared,” he says. “The toilets have also not been damaged; they are merely covered in a lot of dust. Sadly, the hall and the stairs were set on fire.” But there is hope the space will hosts weddings again one day.
Majid is determined to open the doors of his fast food restaurant as soon as possible. “I don’t receive any support for the renovation of Chefcity, but that won’t stop me from restoring my restaurant’s honor,” declares Majid with determination. “Fast food restaurant Chefcity in Qaraqosh will open its doors again.”
“I don’t approve of Christians leaving the Nineveh plains,” says Majid. “I believe you shouldn’t leave your birthplace and you shouldn’t leave your homeland. People don’t have to leave this area because of their safety, because ISIS is in the past now. I have a good feeling about the future. Life is good here—feel welcome!”
Since 2014 and up to September 2017 ACN has provided more than $38M for projects in Iraq, of which 7 million Euros were dedicated to housing costs and 11 million Euros to food and other basic necessities for IDPs in Erbil as well as some $2M for the reconstruction of houses and churches on the Nineveh Plains. The pontifical foundation has already helped to renovate nearly 200 houses (188 exactly) and pledged to renovate 404 homes in Qaraqosh and 150 in Bartella.