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“I don’t feel always safe going there. The mentalities are backwards,” she says, adding that she commutes with nine other Christian students from Qaraqosh to Mosul frequently. “But my desire for the best education possible keeps me going.”

Mosul was emptied of its Christian inhabitants after ISIS seized control in 2014. Despite the city’s liberation two years ago, Christians now feel unsafe living there. Nearly all of its storied churches and monasteries now lie abandoned or in ruins.

Dr. Jamil Nicholas Jako, an ophthalmologist working at the Mar Narsai charity health center in Dohuk, is a former resident. Dr. Jako sold his house in Mosul in 2012 because of the growing prevalence of an extreme Islamist ideology hostile to Christians. He lives now in Dohuk with his five children, all college graduates with no fixed jobs. They help him run an eyewear shop.

“I would never go back to Mosul, but I want to remain in Iraq. I can’t leave now,” he explains.

“Every stone is best in its natural place.”

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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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