Lalish village, Iraq – In the holy centre of Lalish in northern Iraq, hundreds of sick, elderly and weak Yazidis gather, kissing the hand of Sheikh Hussein as he welcomes them home after their ordeal at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Doctors weave among the sick and injured, taking blood samples and trying to reassure them. Some believe ISIL fighters are still holding them, and lash out. One woman cannot remember her own name.
Kidnapped in early August along with thousands of other Yazidis, they were released for unknown reasons last month. ISIL fighters, citing a belief that Yazidis worship the devil, massacred hundreds of members of the minority religion when they swept through northern Iraq last summer.
Yazidi leaders say the new arrivals should come to the holy temple in Lalish and be “cleansed” after ISIL forced them to convert to Islam, but for some, it is clear that adjusting to life as it was before may be impossible.