A Yazidi family fleeing extremist violence in Iraq has walked hundreds of kilometers to Armenia, where the family of six has finally found safety and hope at the end of their long journey.
The Voice of America has in a special video report unveiled the story of Sheikh Mrat Alpeshimam who, alongside his wife and four children fled Iraq when life became too dangerous for the Yazidi people following the takeover of their homeland by the Islamic State extremists.
When asked about life in their home country, family members break into tears.
“We walked about 450 kilometers in the mountains, one of our kids was only four, and the child had to walk with us. There were no means of transportation,” Sheikh Mrat recalls.
His family are Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority that live mostly in Iraq.
They had to leave a lot behind, including relatives: some live in Iraqi refugee camps, others were murdered.
“My wife’s sister was killed, my cousins - both males and females - were kidnapped. We were able to save two girls but not the boys: the girls managed to run away from their kidnappers,” Mrat says.
While their hometown is considered safe after the militants es were expelled, the family is afraid to go back. Too many of those who tried to return to their homes were exploded by mines laid by the extremists.
After they fled, Mrat and his family spent eight days hiding in the mountains with no food or water.
Thousands of children died in these conditions.
“When we were hiding in the mountains, my four-year-old child was thirsty but there was no water, he was hungry, but there was no food. Every time that killed me as a mother,” says Mrat’s wife, Hanna Omari.
Finally they found safety in Armenia where border authorities and ordinary citizens welcomed them and offered them shelter and support. And though living conditions are poor, the family says life is so much better than what they had left behind in Iraq.