Sitting in the shadow of Sinjar Mountain, Borek village is surrounded by agricultural land and boasts a bustling main road lined with shops selling local produce. The village was home to the only petrol station within 30 minutes’ drive and the area became a popular destination for people traveling through the Sinjar district.
A few years ago everything changed when ISIS launched a brutal attack resulting in deaths, abductions, the recruitment of children, and the destruction of homes and infrastructure. Residents were forced to flee their homes and leave their lives behind as they sought safety for their families.
Sadon Edo and his brothers managed the petrol station in Borek village. When ISIS came, they couldn’t follow their fellow residents to safety as they lacked a car, and were instead forced to shelter in the foothills of Sinjar Mountain for seven long days. During a brief break in the fighting Sadon sent his family to Dohuk, Iraq where they would be free from the immediate conflict.
Despite the risks, Sadon kept the petrol station open but the site quickly became a target. ISIS surrounded the facility and captured people in the vicinity before destroying the complex. Sadon watched on as the petrol station that had supported his family went up in smoke.
When Kurdish forces liberated the north of Sinjar Mountain, Sadon traveled to Dohuk to live with his family in an only partially constructed building. Much of Borek had been destroyed and there was little left for displaced people to return to. “Without fuel, people cannot work or get from place to place”, Sadon explained.
MAG’s work with local communities in and around Borek village identified the petrol station as a key project to restore the status of the village. U.S.-funded mechanical assets and clearance teams found and removed 16 improvised landmines, 11 abandoned command or radio operated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and 4 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the area of the petrol station. Once the deadly explosives had been cleared, MAG’s teams removed debris and damaged structures to enable the petrol station to be rebuilt.
“The clearance and rehabilitation of the petrol station allows me to support my family and provide fuel to the community and people passing through,” Sadon explained.
The return of the petrol station and other clearance work in the local area has enabled more than 10,000 people, from 1,775 families, to return to the village and start rebuilding their lives.
Khalid and Salim’s fruit and vegetable stall is next to the petrol station
The entire community has seen the benefits of the restoration of the petrol station as vehicles bring custom to the local shops. “More people are returning to the area, there is more movement and more businesses are benefitting,” Khalid Bidal, owner of a fruit and vegetable store next to the gas station, told MAG. “When the gas station reopened, customers buying fuel would also visit and buy from my store, so we both benefit,” Khalid added.
Khalid’s business is now going from strength to strength and the clearance of a field behind his store was another key development in the restoration of the village. MAG teams discovered that the field was booby-trapped with improvised landmines left by ISIS. The field has now been cleared of all explosives and the area is providing a sustainable livelihood to local farmers.