Light Between Mountains explores the lives of communities affected by land mines, airstrikes and displacement in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq through the lens of walking the region's first long distance hiking trail. In the Kurdistan region, swathes of land are sealed off, and laced with land mines and unexplored ordnance or contaminated with toxic remnants of war. While war has ended in the Kurdistan region, the legacy of war for people living here, particularly in the Northerly reaches, is part of the fabric of their lives. Those who fought for this land, are still unable to climb to its mountain peaks or picnic on its grassy verges. Land carries trauma, just as sentient beings do. Deep within its soil, rot and roots, is a history.


Iraq is one of the world’s most landmine-affected countries - with at least 500 square kilometres still considered hazardous and upwards of 20 million planted landmines. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the first and second Gulf Wars, the persecution of the Kurdish people under Saddam Hussein's government, improvised mines emplaced recently by ISIS, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the US have left Iraq with extensive landmine contamination that still have a daily impact on marginalised communities. These mines have been a threat for so long that in some communities the location of known minefields has become a matter of knowledge to pass down through the generations.


Supported by Article 36, a specialist non-profit organisation focused on reducing harm from weapons.

Ongoing series [2019-Present]



Shepherd portrait in Christian town Al Qosh in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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A shepherd on a hillside in Al Qosh. Located 50km north of Mosul, it is the only Christian town that survived Daesh. In 2014, Daesh came within three kilometres of Al Qosh before being driven out by the Peshmerga.

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A shepherd on a hillside in Al Qosh. Located 50km north of Mosul, it is the only Christian town that survived Daesh. In 2014, Daesh came within three kilometres of Al Qosh before being driven out by the Peshmerga.

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Children running in Akre in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Children running in the hillsides surrounding Akre.

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Children running in the hillsides surrounding Akre.

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A mountaintop minefield in Choman Province.

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A mountaintop minefield in Choman Province.

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Sunrise in Akre in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Sunrise in Akrê.

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Sunrise in Akrê.

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Peshmerga military in Choman Province in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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“I love to walk, and I love mountains. I’ve always walked for my health. And my hobby is to be in nature. In the war, I was walking during a dictatorship and in a place of pain. Now when I walk, I walk without the pain. It’s heaven. How could this not be heaven? Before we had no right to breathe but now we’re free. Imagine, at the top of this mountain where we’re walking was an Iraqi military base. Now you see they’re free. The mountains are free. We sacrificed our blood to be free. I sacrificed my blood. And here I am, walking again”.


Ahmed, a member of the Peshmerga military in Choman Province in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. The Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of Kurdistan Region.

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“I love to walk, and I love mountains. I’ve always walked for my health. And my hobby is to be in nature. In the war, I was walking during a dictatorship and in a place of pain. Now when I walk, I walk without the pain. It’s heaven. How could this not be heaven? Before we had no right to breathe but now we’re free. Imagine, at the top of this mountain where we’re walking was an Iraqi military base. Now you see they’re free. The mountains are free. We sacrificed our blood to be free. I sacrificed my blood. And here I am, walking again”.


Ahmed, a member of the Peshmerga military in Choman Province in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. The Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of Kurdistan Region.

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Tree in Christian town Al Qosh in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Hillside in Al Qosh. Located 50km north of Mosul, it is the only Christian town that survived Daesh. In 2014, Daesh came within three kilometres of Al Qosh before being driven out by the Peshmerga.

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Hillside in Al Qosh. Located 50km north of Mosul, it is the only Christian town that survived Daesh. In 2014, Daesh came within three kilometres of Al Qosh before being driven out by the Peshmerga.

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Demining men near Duhok in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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A demining team in Duhok work on a mine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) clearance with Mines Advisory Group.

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A demining team in Duhok work on a mine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) clearance with Mines Advisory Group.

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Choman Province in the Kurdish Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Choman Province in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

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Choman Province in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

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Peshmerga sculpture in Dohuk Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Sculpture of Peshmerga in Dohuk. The Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of Kurdistan Region.

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Sculpture of Peshmerga in Dohuk. The Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of Kurdistan Region.

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Man hiker peshmerga in Choman Province Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group.
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Hiker in Choman Province

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Hiker in Choman Province

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Yazidi sisters from Sinjar at Lalish temple, the holiest site of the Yazidi faith.

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Yazidi sisters from Sinjar at Lalish temple, the holiest site of the Yazidi faith.

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Lalish in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Natural gas burn off in Lalish, Kurdish Region of Iraq.

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Natural gas burn off in Lalish, Kurdish Region of Iraq.

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Prosthetic limbs in Sulaymaniyah Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Prosthetic limbs in Slemani, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Prosthetic limbs in Slemani, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Man standing in snow near Erbil Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group.
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Highway 18 between Erbil and Shaqlawa in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

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Highway 18 between Erbil and Shaqlawa in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

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Kurdish Syrian refugee woman in Gawilan refugee camp in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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"I lost my brother and my mother in law in Ras Al Ain, Syria. I had to leave their bodies where they were and just leave. They burned our homes and destroyed everything. I fled with nothing. I had to sell all my gold to pay the smuggler to come to Iraq. I was a teacher in Syria – I want to work and I applied to Aleppo to get a new certificate but I can’t afford it. My son went to an English course that I paid for, but I don’t have the money for the certificate. I just want the men to be able to work. We are educated people, and we want to go out – but it is not safe to go back to Syria. After I gave birth I had pain in my eyes and I couldn’t see or concentrate. I went to the clinic and they just gave me painkillers, which didn’t work. I said please send me to a doctor. I asked for a check on my blood pressure, but they said they didn’t have time. I felt they were laughing and treating me very badly. The children are going to the school here, but we don’t want this life in the camp – what is their future? They are the future, and if they don’t have their base of education, when they grow up what will they be? This war was not our fault – we want to raise our voice, we want someone to listen, and to solve this situation."


Gulstan, a Kurdish-Syrian refugee in Gawilan refugee camp in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

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"I lost my brother and my mother in law in Ras Al Ain, Syria. I had to leave their bodies where they were and just leave. They burned our homes and destroyed everything. I fled with nothing. I had to sell all my gold to pay the smuggler to come to Iraq. I was a teacher in Syria – I want to work and I applied to Aleppo to get a new certificate but I can’t afford it. My son went to an English course that I paid for, but I don’t have the money for the certificate. I just want the men to be able to work. We are educated people, and we want to go out – but it is not safe to go back to Syria. After I gave birth I had pain in my eyes and I couldn’t see or concentrate. I went to the clinic and they just gave me painkillers, which didn’t work. I said please send me to a doctor. I asked for a check on my blood pressure, but they said they didn’t have time. I felt they were laughing and treating me very badly. The children are going to the school here, but we don’t want this life in the camp – what is their future? They are the future, and if they don’t have their base of education, when they grow up what will they be? This war was not our fault – we want to raise our voice, we want someone to listen, and to solve this situation."


Gulstan, a Kurdish-Syrian refugee in Gawilan refugee camp in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

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Deactivated land mines in Duhok in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Deactivated land mines in Duhok, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Deactivated land mines in Duhok, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Shepherd and sheep near Dinartain in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Muhammad, his grandson and his large flock of sheep near the town of Dinarta.

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Muhammad, his grandson and his large flock of sheep near the town of Dinarta.

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Yazidi pilgrim inside Lalish temple in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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A Yazidi pilgrim walks past rows of olive oil jars pressed from local groves inside Lalish temple in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The mountain valley temple of Lalish is the holiest site for the Yazidi faith.

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A Yazidi pilgrim walks past rows of olive oil jars pressed from local groves inside Lalish temple in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The mountain valley temple of Lalish is the holiest site for the Yazidi faith.

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Peshmerga on the edge of lake Dokan in the Kurdistan region of Iraq
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Peshmerga on the edge of Lake Dokan in the Kurdistan region of Iraq

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Peshmerga on the edge of Lake Dokan in the Kurdistan region of Iraq

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Peshmerga inside Erbil bazaar in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group.
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Peshmerga portrait hanging inside Erbil's central bazaar.

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Peshmerga portrait hanging inside Erbil's central bazaar.

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 Landscape in Sulaymaniyah Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Sulaymaniyah, Kurdish Region of Iraq.

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Sulaymaniyah, Kurdish Region of Iraq.

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Syrian Qamishli child refugees in Bardarash refugee camp in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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"Mohammed and I have our own language, and I feel very special because of that. When we left our home I was so afraid for Mohammed. I wanted us to leave the city because I was scared for him. He is the most important person in my life. He's my big brother. When the bombing started, I asked my family to go down to our relative’s basement because I knew we would be safer there. The bombs would not be able to hit Mohammed in the basement. The best way to calm Mohammed down is to make him laugh – when I have the phone, I show him Kurdish comedy on the internet. During the airstrikes, I kept telling Mohammed it's ok, it's ok, I am your brother, and I love you. I kept telling him that we will leave soon and be safe again."


Mohammed [20] and Alan [14], refugees from Qamishli city in Syria inside their tent in Bardarash refugee camp.

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"Mohammed and I have our own language, and I feel very special because of that. When we left our home I was so afraid for Mohammed. I wanted us to leave the city because I was scared for him. He is the most important person in my life. He's my big brother. When the bombing started, I asked my family to go down to our relative’s basement because I knew we would be safer there. The bombs would not be able to hit Mohammed in the basement. The best way to calm Mohammed down is to make him laugh – when I have the phone, I show him Kurdish comedy on the internet. During the airstrikes, I kept telling Mohammed it's ok, it's ok, I am your brother, and I love you. I kept telling him that we will leave soon and be safe again."


Mohammed [20] and Alan [14], refugees from Qamishli city in Syria inside their tent in Bardarash refugee camp.

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Syrian Rojava child refugees in Bardarash refugee camp in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Cousins from Rojava, Syria play a card game during a powercut at a refugee settlement in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Cousins from Rojava, Syria play a card game during a powercut at a refugee settlement in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Two men drinking chai tea Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group.
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Abdul and his son inside their new home in Iraqi Kurdistan. Nine months ago, they left Rojava, Syria to build a new life.

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Abdul and his son inside their new home in Iraqi Kurdistan. Nine months ago, they left Rojava, Syria to build a new life.

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Demining men near Duhok in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Demining team in Duhok work on a mine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) clearance with Mines Advisory Group. Mines Advisory Group Iraq has worked in Iraq since 1992 to make land safe for populations affected by decades of conflict.

Manual mine clearance techniques rely on demining teams working along marked lanes using metal detectors, prodders, rakes and excavation tools to identify, remove and dispose of mines and unexploded ordnance. 

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Demining team in Duhok work on a mine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) clearance with Mines Advisory Group. Mines Advisory Group Iraq has worked in Iraq since 1992 to make land safe for populations affected by decades of conflict.

Manual mine clearance techniques rely on demining teams working along marked lanes using metal detectors, prodders, rakes and excavation tools to identify, remove and dispose of mines and unexploded ordnance. 

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Kurdish Syrian refugee woman in Gawilan refugee camp in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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"From Ras al Ain [Syria] we walked with a smuggler, whilst I was holding our baby. I was scared doing this in the night with the baby, walking all the way – it was very far and she was heavy, and I saw many difficult things on the way – people with children who were struggling. We knew that if the YPG saw anyone trying to flee they would block them and send them back, and we even heard that the Peshmerga will give people back to the YPG. In the daytime we hid in a tunnel – Fatma wasn’t crying because I was feeding her to make sure she didn’t cry and to make her sleep. When it was dark, the smuggler told us to move. I wrapped her in a blanket and gave her a dummy so that she would sleep, and then we walked.

After we entered the KRG, the smuggler told us we were here – we went to a village and we were so thirsty, we went to a mosque to drink water. Ten dogs came towards us, and Mohammed and my husband were throwing stones at the dogs to get them to go away. Someone from the Peshmerga took us to Somel in Dohuk, then took us on buses to his camp, and now we are here".


*Amina, Gawilan refugee camp

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"From Ras al Ain [Syria] we walked with a smuggler, whilst I was holding our baby. I was scared doing this in the night with the baby, walking all the way – it was very far and she was heavy, and I saw many difficult things on the way – people with children who were struggling. We knew that if the YPG saw anyone trying to flee they would block them and send them back, and we even heard that the Peshmerga will give people back to the YPG. In the daytime we hid in a tunnel – Fatma wasn’t crying because I was feeding her to make sure she didn’t cry and to make her sleep. When it was dark, the smuggler told us to move. I wrapped her in a blanket and gave her a dummy so that she would sleep, and then we walked.

After we entered the KRG, the smuggler told us we were here – we went to a village and we were so thirsty, we went to a mosque to drink water. Ten dogs came towards us, and Mohammed and my husband were throwing stones at the dogs to get them to go away. Someone from the Peshmerga took us to Somel in Dohuk, then took us on buses to his camp, and now we are here".


*Amina, Gawilan refugee camp

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Kurdish Syrian refugee woman in refugee camp in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Amina* inside her tent at a IDP camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Amina’s husband joined ISIS after they married, and was later killed by an airstrike in Mosul after the birth of their first two children. Amina married at 14 after the death of her father, and gave birth to her third child in the very tent I photographed her in.

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Amina* inside her tent at a IDP camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Amina’s husband joined ISIS after they married, and was later killed by an airstrike in Mosul after the birth of their first two children. Amina married at 14 after the death of her father, and gave birth to her third child in the very tent I photographed her in.

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Night in Sulaymaniyah Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

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Woman inside home Tulaband Village in Kurdistan Region of Iraq by photojournalist Emily Garthwaite Article 36 and Mines Advisory Group
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"It was midnight when we received a call from other villages near us in Sinjar to say ISIS were attacking. We immediately fled, terrified by stories of what ISIS had done elsewhere, going first to Kalak, then on to Erbil and to Kirkuk where we stayed for 14 days. Two of my daughters were already in Kalak, and another in Kirkuk, but the rest of us all fled together. After that we drove back to Safiya and rented a house.


On 30 May 2016 our area was liberated and on 3 March 2017 we returned home. We found our house burned and badly damaged. We stayed in a small shelter while we cleaned up and worked to rebuild the house. For that time we had no electricity except for during the evening when the Peshmerga would share theirs, and the children attended school only every other day. Our community temple was also completely destroyed and surrounded by IEDs. MAG has cleared the area, and a French NGO rebuilt it.


Now not everyone has returned - some have made their lives elsewhere. But we feel safe and more optimistic now - the health clinic has reopened and our kids can go to school now."


Jamela, Tulaband Village

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"It was midnight when we received a call from other villages near us in Sinjar to say ISIS were attacking. We immediately fled, terrified by stories of what ISIS had done elsewhere, going first to Kalak, then on to Erbil and to Kirkuk where we stayed for 14 days. Two of my daughters were already in Kalak, and another in Kirkuk, but the rest of us all fled together. After that we drove back to Safiya and rented a house.


On 30 May 2016 our area was liberated and on 3 March 2017 we returned home. We found our house burned and badly damaged. We stayed in a small shelter while we cleaned up and worked to rebuild the house. For that time we had no electricity except for during the evening when the Peshmerga would share theirs, and the children attended school only every other day. Our community temple was also completely destroyed and surrounded by IEDs. MAG has cleared the area, and a French NGO rebuilt it.


Now not everyone has returned - some have made their lives elsewhere. But we feel safe and more optimistic now - the health clinic has reopened and our kids can go to school now."


Jamela, Tulaband Village

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