By Natashya Fernandez
It wasn’t a fairy tale story for Yaqoob Jebrita and his family when they escaped from the clutches of ISIS terrorists, but he is grateful for their new life in Australia and the immense help he has received from his Mirrabooka Parish.
One year since their arrival to Australia and on the lookout for a job, in an interview with The eRecord, Mr Jebrita says he lost his business, his father and their livelihood but what he didn’t lose was his faith in God.
A photographer and videographer by trade, Mr Jebrita had a fulfilling life in his hometown of Baghdeda (Al Hamdaniya). But all that changed when on 13 July 2014, Mosul, the town closest to his village fell into the hands of ISIS, he said.
“My town had over 95 per cent Christians and when ISIS declared war, we were very scared as our village was just 20 kilometres away from Mosul. We were reassured by the army to continue to live our lives but that wasn’t for long. My village was bombed on 25 July and my home was destroyed,” he said.
Leaving their home, his business and all their belongings, Mr Jebrita and his family fled together with his parents and his brother’s family to Erbil, a Kurdish town some 60kms from their village where they settled in the Church of St Joseph and lived there for three days, dependant on food and shelter from the church.
“During that time, things settled down in our village and the Catholic Bishop told us to go back to our homes. When we returned we realised that we had no water, electricity or food. It was my home for almost 40 years and we did not have anything left,” Mr Jebrita added.
While the family tried to return to their normal lives, Mr Jebrita said that it was short lived, and on 6 August, their village was bombed for the second time.
“ISIS returned and this time it was tragic. We saw children and women being killed and some died in our arms on the way to the hospital.
“We heard may bombs during that time and had no choice but to flee again for safety of our lives. We went back to the Church of St Joseph where our families lived for a month. We had nothing and could not go back to our village after that, Mr Jebrita explained.
Mr Jebrita registered with Caritas to move to Jordan to feel safer but it wasn’t a happy ending for his whole family. While his family and his brothers’ family were given visas to move to Jordan, Mr Jebrita’s parents weren’t allowed and had to stay back in Iraq.
“It was a very sad day for us when we left but we had to leave because of our families. We moved to Jordan in September 2014 and lived there for over a year and a half in a small room that was given to refugees by the church.
It was here that I met Father Kalil Jaar who not only helped my family through all the hardships but also the other families seeking refuge too,” he said.
Tragedy struck again in November 2015 when Mr Jebrita got news that his father had been killed by the terrorists in another attack in Erbil. So leaving their families in Jordan, the two brothers went back to Iraq for his mother.
It wasn’t till late 2015 that Australia opened its doors to Mr Jebrita and his family, and in April 2016, they were given refugee status to move there.
“It was the best thing that happened to us as we were constantly living in fear. I am happy to be here and it is my God who helped us,” he said.
“My kids go to school and we have set ourselves up, I am in the process of finishing a Certificated 2 in Business to get a job.
“None of this would have happened if I had not received help from Fr Giosue Marini at St Gerard Majella church in Mirrabooka and from Fr Elias Kilzi at Our Lady of the Annunciation Melkite Catholic Church in Mount Lawley who have helped our families (my brother and I) a lot.
“They have gone out of their way to help us.”
In spite of all the hardships and language barriers, Mr Jebrita said that the opportunity to have a safe place for his family is the best thing that has happened to them.
“It was difficult initially being in a new country but I am picking up on my English and when my course in complete I want to get a job as soon as possible.
“I want to give back to Australia what they have done for me and my family. Because of my business and always having work, I hope that this course will help me in finding a job,” Mr Jebrita concluded.