Helda Hindi is a ten-year-old Iraqi girl who has spent three years in exile after fleeing her home region of the Nineveh Plains following the brutal invasion of Islamic State militants. Hindi, who has now returned to her homeland with her family, opened up about her ordeal in a staggering conversation with Catholic charity Aid to Church in Need (ACN).
She remembers the fateful night: August 6th 2014. It was the night that ISIS would storm her hometown and her life would change forever. “Alarm bells rang out in our streets – we had to escape the living hell of violence and terrorism,” Hindi recalled.
It was a devastating reality for Hindi and her family. ISIS gave them no choice: leave or die.
“I went along, crying, with no hope of ever returning to my town, my school – with no hope of ever seeing my friends again,” she said. “We had no idea how long we would be displaced from our beloved city.
“The days passed and we lived in torment and tragedy until we got used to it.”
According to ACN, some 44,000 Christians fled Helda’s Christian town of Qaraqosh when the murderous militants rolled in. Most sought shelter in the nearby city of Erbil, where ACN has assisted in the building of new schools so that the children can continue their education.
“I was sad, clinging to hope of returning to my old school, but I made new friends,” Helda said. “And today, by God’s grace, we have returned to our town and I am back in my old school among my old friends.”
The brave young girl detailed that their faith in God was the only thing that kept the family going.
“We had only God and we never stopped believing in His power and His mercy for all those hurting in Iraq and around the world,” she said. “My family, friends and relatives never felt that God was far away from us.”
Despite their horrific suffering, Hindi is convinced that God has always been with them, protecting and helping them on their journey of surivial.
“As far as I can see into the past, God has been with me always,” she said. “God is with me everywhere and I make sure to always keep nearby some pictures of Jesus Christ and a Bible.”
Helda said that Christians in foreign countries must continue to offer support and assistance to their fellow believers caught up in the violence in Iraq.
“My message to the West is to do as much as possible to support Christians in Iraq because they are close to extinction,” she said.
“Help us. Have compassion. We want stability and peace.”
In December last year, the Iraqi government formally declared that it had driven ISIS from all territories. “All Iraqi lands are liberated from terrorist Daesh [Isis] gangs and our forces completely control the international Iraqi-Syrian border,” said Lt Gen Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah of the Iraqi army, as reported by The Guardian.
The US-led coalition has conducted more than 13,200 air strikes against IS targets in Iraq since August 2014, reported by the BBC.
“The coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has retaken almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria,” declared President Trump at World Economic Forum in Davos today, as reported by Channel News Asia.
“There is still more fighting and work to be done and to consolidate our gains.”
According to Iraq Body Count, the total number of civilian deaths in Iraq since 2014 was totaled at 67,376 up to the end of December 2017.
The UN estimates there are approximately 2.8 million Iraqis who have been forced to leave their homes to escape the conflict with ISIS – these numbers apply to those who are displaced within the country. Go further afield, and the numbers become mind-boggling. There are estimated to be about 6.1 million Syrians currently holed up in temporary accomodation or refugee camps as a result of the conflict.