Widow of a former ISIS member.

The Khazir camp is boiling with anger today. It’s late March but it’s already hot, and people are waiting in line in the blazing sun for kerosene; mostly young children. They’re using loose buckets and various other containers. The situation feels ripe for a catastrophic accident. 

“All of the foreign NGOs have pulled out,” I am told by my fixer, Stella Martany. People are frustrated. There is no aid and all of the families have debts at the market. 

Many of the inhabitants have been here for years with no end in sight. Khazir is a kind of purgatory for IDPs.

The conditions have deteriorated since my first visit in 2022; it’s hard to believe because the camp was already a place of squalor. 

Last year I met a young man named Mohammad, a former child soldier of ISIS. He was kidnapped by the group at age 14 and forced to fight. He has been acquitted of his crimes in court, but he remains at Khazir with no hope of ever being able to leave. 

In 2023, we happened to see Mohammad again. He was walking outside with his stepchildren; he excitedly told us he had recently gotten married to a woman who had been moved to Khazir by Iraqi intelligence. Her ex-husband was also a member of ISIS.

My wife is at the market but please come into the tent for a chat, he says. Outside, we also meet his neighbor. She is an older woman and a kind of surrogate mother to Mohammad and his new bride.  Her body language exudes strength, pride and kindness. 

She warmly says 

“على رأسي’

Which means literally “on my head.” She is welcoming us into her tent.