LALISH, Iraq — Eleven-year-old Banaz fled her home in northern Iraq after Islamic State fighters killed her father. She made her way here to Lalish, a temple complex that is the most holy site for the region’s Yazidi minority. Now it’s also a shelter of last resort for more than 2,000 families, after the Islamic State invaded their villages.
As the Islamic State advances across Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis have fled their homes, part of 1.8 million Iraqis displaced since June. Here in Lalish, families sleep in open areas or under meager shelters with few supplies. And things are about to get even worse.
By December the temperatures in Northern Iraq will drop to near freezing. Snow often blankets the Lalish hills. But those here fled their homes in the heat of summer without warm clothing. Aid organizations warn of a mass humanitarian crisis if adequate shelter, heating and winter supplies are not secured for the homeless within the next few weeks.
As displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees continue to arrive in Iraq’s Kurdish region, aid groups are already running out of basic food supplies.