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Most of Mrs. Aziz’s family has left Iraq. Her home in nearby Batnaya, which remains totally deserted, has been “totally flattened.” Having lost everything, she moved with her husband and two of her children to Tel Eskof to live in the house of relatives who left for Australia.

To bring joy into their new, unfamiliar home, Mrs. Aziz bought her youngest son, 12-year-old Angel, a small, friendly dog named Tita.

But she says the pain of her dispersed family is difficult to heal. Her two eldest sons left college for Lebanon, where they work in low-wage jobs while waiting to be resettled by the United Nations in a Western country.

“The new generation wants to see life,” she says. “They want to go to the cinema, to go out, to feel simply normal.”

Not everybody wants to leave. Ayman Ramzi Gharib, a slim, cheerful 22-year-old driver, traveled to Jordan earlier in July as the first step to join the rest of his family in Australia. But after a couple of weeks, he returned.

“I can’t imagine my life away from home,” he says as he opens the door to his damaged family home.

Mr. Gharib married last year while displaced to nearby Al Qosh — the only Christian enclave that avoided ISIS occupation. Now, he has a newborn daughter, Orvelia, and temporarily shares an apartment with his brother while he finishes repairing their house.

Past the kitchen of the bare house, the sun filters through a hole in the ceiling. Mr. Gharib stares at a reproduction on the wall of Christ and the Virgin Mary, with rays of light emanating from their hearts.

“I was born and raised here. This is all I know in life.”

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Raed Rafei is a Beirut-based journalist and independent filmmaker whose writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Forbes Arabia and the Daily Star of Lebanon.



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