An exodus of refugees waits out Assad and Islamic State

Video: An exodus of refugees waits out Assad and Islamic State

Maclean’s correspondent Michael Petrou reports from Darakshakran camp in Iraq

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The Syrian civil war has triggered an almost unfathomable exodus of people from their homes.

Nine million Syrians—more than a third of the country’s population, and a number roughly equivalent to the populations of Canada’s eight largest cities put together—are displaced. Some remain in Syria. More than three million have fled it altogether, including more than 200,000 now living in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Residents of the Darakshakran camp near Erbil are mostly Syrian Kurds from the north and east of the country. The radical jihadist group calling itself Islamic State is currently rampaging through Syrian Kurdistan, notably besieging the city of Kobane on the border with Turkey.

But many residents of Darakshakran left their homes well before Islamic State’s current onslaught, fleeing instead the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its response to an uprising that began with non-violent street demonstrations in 2011. Since then, more than 200,000 Syrians have died as Assad’s attempts to crush protests against him escalated into all-out war.

Some Syrians in Darakshakran believe Assad allows Islamic State to flourish in order to discredit the revolution against him. They want to go home, but say this won’t be possible until both Assad’s regime and Islamic State are defeated.

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