“I really want to go back to the city of my birth, Baghdeda (Qaraqosh),” says a smiling Majid Shaba (45), who runs a fast food establishment in Erbil. “When ISIS invaded Baghdeda I had to leave the city, in which I was in charge of a fast food restaurant, Chefcity. I didn’t leave my city out of my own free will. My new restaurant in Erbil has been doing reasonably well, but you simply cannot compare life in Erbil to life in Qaraqosh: it is not a good alternative. That’s why I want to return to Baghdeda, to the Nineveh plains: I was born there, I want to live and die there. Baghdeda (Qaraqosh) is my city.”
Scrubbing the pavement
Majid has been in the city of his birth for three days to make his house ready to live in. Today, his wife Asmaa Alias (40) has also arrived from Erbil, along with their children Dima (10) and Shaban (4). Their oldest son, Yousif (14), stayed behind in their temporary house in Erbil’s Christian neighbourhood Ankawa. “I long to live in Baghdeda again,” says Asmaa, smiling.
Samir Alias Polis (49), his wife Thaira Alias Karromi (43) and their three children are helping their brother- and sister-in-law to clean their house. Samir works as a cleaner in Erbil and found temporary shelter in an apartment of the Church. “The militias are strong,” he sighs, scrubbing the pavement. “I’m not sure we are safe”. He is not as enthusiastic as Majid about returning and sometimes he thinks about moving abroad.
Before the occupation, the building was used for weddings
Majid still has a lot of work to do in his fast food restaurant “Chefcity”, where things are still quite a mess. In the neighbouring house, Raafat Foufael (32) and his uncle Badry Sloulaka (62) are working hard to put order in the mess that the jihadists left behind. Before the occupation, the building was used for hosting parties. Couples raised their glasses to their marriage and danced in the dancing hall. Raafat shows us the special bench for the newlyweds. “Luckily, it has been spared,” he says. “The toilets have also not been damaged; they are merely covered in a lot of dust. Sadly, the hall and the stairs had been set on fire.”
The air-conditioning in the hall is blackened and on the ceiling are miserable steel pipes. The bar with the tap, on the first floor, has been damaged and will need fixing. Raafat hired workers to renovate and clean the place as soon as possible.
Majid is determined to open the doors of his fast food restaurant as soon as possible as well. “I don’t receive any support with the renovation of Chefcity, but that won’t stop me from restoring my restaurant’s honour,” declares Majid with determination. “Fast food restaurant Chefcity in Baghdeda will open its doors again.”
Good feeling about the future
“I don’t approve of Christians leaving the Nineveh plains,” ponders Majid. “I believe you shouldn’t leave your birthplace and you shouldn’t leave your homeland. People don’t have to leave this area because of their safety, because ISIS is in the past now. We now possess our own army that can protect us, Christians. I have a good feeling about the future. Life is good here, feel welcome!”