A year ago, Sozan was in free fall, her world unraveled by violence.
“ISIS takes everything,” she said back then. “We lost everything.”
You broke her fall. You caught Sozan—and you haven’t let go since. You helped Sozan find her footing. You cared for her in her distress.
One year on, Sozan has what she needs to survive. She has her own business. She’s able to provide for her family. The soap she makes with her own hands? It puts real money into her pockets. It puts food on her table. It’s allowed her to start dreaming about the future again.
This is not the story we’re used to hearing from Syria and Iraq.
Throughout the region, millions of refugees are confined to camps, some of them massive. These camps provide relative safety—and essential aid—for vulnerable families. But it’s hard to think about your future when you’re trapped among a sea of tents with no work, no livelihood… no opportunity.
Sozan’s story looks very different than that, thanks to you. But make no mistake: she is still displaced. Her family still lives in a shipping container, far from home.
If this were the last chapter in the story, none of us would call it a happy ending.
It’s one thing to catch someone while they’re falling. It’s another thing to walk back up the mountain with them.
Almost every refugee we talk to—including Sozan—has the same dream. And it’s not, “We want to go to Europe.”
It’s not America or Canada, either.
It’s, "We want to go home."
You know that feeling you get when you come home after being gone for a really long stretch? They get that feeling, too. You know the contentment you feel deep in your bones, that this piece of earth, here with these people—this is where you belong?
They feel it, too.
They love their homeland every bit as much as you love yours.
It's because of you that refugees like Sozan don’t have to wait until they go home to start putting the pieces of their lives back together. But their journey won't be complete until they are safely where they belong: home.
It’s true—some are tempted by the promise of Europe or America—although 95% of refugees will never leave the region, according to our friends at We Welcome Refugees. People in Syria and Iraq are understandably are war-weary. They’ve endured the kind of violence most of us can’t begin to fathom. Some refugees are willing to risk everything—even drowning on the open sea—for the prospect of a "normal" life in Europe.
Some, however, find life away from home is not all it’s cracked up to be, for one reason or another. The Iraqi embassy in Germany has issued thousands of one-way travel documents for those now choosing to go home.
Because that’s all we really want in the end, isn’t it? To go home. To live somewhere we can belong, where we feel most connected to the people around us and the earth beneath us.
At the end of the day, that’s what Sozan wants, too. "I hope Sinjar will be freed so we can go back home," she says, referring to her homeland near the border between Iraq and Syria.
That’s the next journey we need to walk with Sozan: the journey home.
It will not be easy. ISIS has been pushed out of Sinjar, but the front lines are still dangerously close to Sozan’s home. During a recent visit to the area, we could see the rockets fired by ISIS.
Much of Sinjar is reduced to rubble. Mass graves dot the landscape. Sinjar City is largely deserted. ISIS has been known to plant explosives before being driven from an area, hoping to kill as many as possible when they return.
In some cases, there are no schools for children to return to—and many parents would rather be refugees if it means their kids receive some form of education. Returning families need access to healthcare services. They need agricultural support. They need a sustainable food supply. They need jobs and businesses so they can rebuild their local economy.
There is more to going home than getting rid of ISIS. The journey home requires a long-term commitment to unmake violence—and remake a refugee’s world.
That’s why we go to places like Sinjar and Bashir, a town liberated from ISIS only a few weeks ago. We go because we believe these places can be remade. Violence will not have the last word. Life will flourish here again.
We go because we are committed to walking the long road home with our refugee friends like Sozan.
And we go because you walk that road with us, too. As our friend Ann wrote a year ago, you don’t let go and you won’t let go, and you won’t turn away.
Thank you for standing with refugees like Sozan. Thank you for walking the long road. Let’s help them realize their dream one day: to return home. Donate today.
Photos (top to bottom): Road near Sinjar, Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, destruction in Sinjar City, displaced child from Sinjar, Yazidi teenagers, Sozan and her sister Gozê's youngest children.