187 families displaced, $0.5 million losses by camp fire

Duhok, June 5th, 2021- An IDP of Sharia camp sweeping fire remnants of his tent. Ammar Aziz.

Ammar Aziz, Duhok

187 families lost 400 tents and their entire household, in the camp of Sharia for Yazidi IDPs in Duhok province leaving them homeless again and causing 750-million Iraqi Dinar losses.

The huge blaze erupted on June 4th is blamed by the residents for electrical short circuit yet still being investigated by civil defense.

Sa'id Elias, who lives in the camp for seven years, said the fire wasn't huge in the beginning so "we called the fire brigade of the camp whom said their vehicle is broken.

The fire wasn't huge in the beginning so we called the fire brigade of the camp whom said their vehicle is broken.

"The residents could not contain the fire so we called Duhok fire brigade yet till they came to the place, everything was out of control."

The IDPs on June 5th told KirkukNow reporter the reason was electrical short circuit in a tent yet Duhok Civil Defense are ongoing with their investigations.  

Sharia Camp for Ezidi IDPs is home to 2500 families, 20 km far from the center of Duhok province. 187 families, some had more than one tent, have lost their entire household and currently are homeless.

Tens of thousands of Ezidis are still living in tens of camps in Kurdistan region despite liberation of their territories from so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS in 2017 due to the vast destruction to their hometowns.

In August 2014, the extremist militants of IS stormed the district of Shingal, home to tens of thousands of Ezidis, adherents of an ancient religion accused of being devil worshippers, and have committed atrocities mounted to genocide.

Thousands of Ezidi women, girls and kids were enslaved and taken as sex slaves. Up today, about 2800 Ezidi women, girls and kids are still missing.

The locals and camp management estimate the losses caused by the huge fire which lasted for hours at minimum 750 million Iraqi Dinars ($0.5 million).

Elias recalls he was at his tent and suddenly heard people shouting to evacuate the tents.

"I caught the hand of my kids and ran. It’s the first time to see such a blaze in the camp. Our three tents were burnt. Nothing left for us."

Few days ago, Elias has sold his car for 11 M IQD. He paid back a 6 M loan and the fire blaze swallowed the rest 5 M.

"What I have earned in seven years has burnt in few minutes."

The IDPs say they have asked the camp manager to fix the fire fighting vehicle yet he was indifferent to their calls.

Since the military defeat of IS, discord over security arrangements, public services, and the lack of a unified administration, have plagued victims and survivors.

The complex texture of the security and administrative situation in Shingal is an aftermath of ISIS reign In the Ezidi-dominant region of Shingal, only three thousand square km, Baghdad federal and Erbil regional governments compete to establish their rule: three local administrations want to administer the district, and eight different security forces are deployed, some loyal to Baghdad, others to Erbil.


Duhok, June 5th, 2021- Teams of civil defense in Sharia IDP camp sweeping away the burnt tents. Photo by Ammar Aziz.

The administration of Duhok province has sacked the manager of the camp and further investigations are ongoing.

Salim Badal, says their camp has been neglected and received a poor service.

"The incident is another catastrophe for the Ezidis. We have been asking the camp for seven years to turn the tents into concrete blocks but they didn't allow us."

Six people were slightly injured and 30 others suffered short breathing.

The fire blaze burnt part of the cash earning of one of the residents, a trader, $50,000 & 100 M IQD.

"We have even used jets to extinguish the fire."

Out of 0.5 million population, over 350,000 Ezidis fled Shingal to Kurdistan region and Shingal Mount. About 100,000 migrated to Europe, USA, Canada and Australia and over 100,000 are yet living in IDP camps in Kurdistan.

The Iraqi army is trying hard to implement Shingal agreement concluded by Erbil and Baghdad last October which aims at restoring stability and reconstruction to the region through withdrawal of all armed groups from the area, restore a fresh local administration by appointment of a new mayor, reconstruction and supply of basic public services in order to pave the way for volunteer return of thousands of Ezidi IDPs living in tens of camps in the adjacent Kurdistan region.

Bewar Abdul-Aziz, media manager of Duhok Civil Defense said they have controlled the fire in two hours.

"We have even used jets to extinguish the fire."

400 tents for 187 families were burnt, Civil defense says.

"A joint committee of camp management, Duhok province and civil defense investigate the reason behind the fire and any carelessness," said Abdul-Aziz.

Administration of Duhok province has decided to compensate the IDPs for their losses yet no mechanism declared yet. The Iraqi ministry of migration and the displaced MOMD said per order of the Prime Minister, they have allocated a one payment of IQD500,000 ($330) for each family.

"This is a heartbreaking catastrophe and we call on the organizations and charity donors to aid these families," said Jawhar Ali Beg, deputy of the Ezidi Amir (Prince).

The new manager of the camp said the families will receive compensations for sure following the investigations.

Sharia fire is not the first in the IDP camps this year. Over 25 cases of fire have been registered in the camp of Bersiv in Zakho district of Duhok Northern Province.

Two weeks ago, a report by KirkukNow has shown that deployment of fire brigades in camps reduces fire risks and losses to half. Relevant local authorities said their capabilities are limited.

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