Among what was left of their belongings, the family
discovered that all of their religious ornaments had been decapitated.
[Claire Thomas/Al Jazeera]
The Batlos family fled Qaraqosh more than two years ago,
when ISIL fighters captured the city. They recently returned home for
the first time, only to discover their town in ruins.
As the battle rages to retake Mosul, the last Iraqi
stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known
as ISIS) group, members of Iraq's Christian minority have started
returning to the recently liberated town of Qaraqosh.
The Batlos family, who are Assyrian Catholics, fled Qaraqosh on
August 6, 2014, after Kurdish forces warned them that ISIL would soon
seize the city. Leaving all of their belongings behind, the family
travelled to nearby Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region.
In December 2016, less than two months after Iraqi forces
retook Qaraqosh from ISIL, the Batlos family returned home to discover
large areas of the town in ruins, with no power or water supply. The
threat of hidden improvised explosive devices planted by ISIL fighters
continues to loom large.
"We are still scared here," Haitham Zeia Batlos told Al Jazeera.
* See the other photos by Claire Thomas for Al Jazeera by clicking on the title