Sulaiman Omar has not heard from his six brothers or their daughters since the day Isil came to town.
The 37-year-old Yazidi fighter lost contact with them – as well as other family members – amid the jihadists’ onslaught on his home of Sinjar, Iraq, in August 2014.
Now, he believes, his brothers are likely to be dead and their daughters sold as sex slaves. As he walks amid the rubble and twisted metal beams of a city liberated but in ruins, his anger turns to some of his former neighbours.
“It doesn’t matter whether they’re Kurdish or Arab – if they’ve burnt our homes and kidnapped our women we won’t forgive them,” he says.
As jubilation over the liberation of Sinjar city melts away, brewing tensions between Yazidis and Sunnis are causing ripples of alarm among the residents.
While civilians have yet to return in any number to the devastated city, the Yazidis who venture on to the shattered roads of Sinjar to claim back what is left of their belongings say they do not wish for Sunni residents to come back to their homes.
Reports of Sunni homes being ransacked by Yazidis are abundant. In a city where Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmens and Christians lived side by side, there is now little space left for forgiveness.
The advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) through Nineveh Province, in which Sinjar sits, saw the killing of thousands of Yazidis and the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands more.
“How can we let Arabs back? We lived with them for hundreds of years and they stabbed us in the back,” said Jadan Darush Jadan, a peshmerga colonel and Yazidi from Sinjar.
“Arabs who lived here either helped Isil militarily, financially or sympathised with them,” he said, sitting in front of a large wooden desk in what used to be his school.
The building was turned into a military base following the retaking of the city by peshmerga forces in November.
“We’ve not seen one example of an Arab helping a Yazidi,” he said. But, according to four displaced Kurds in Duhok, who claim to have witnessed the killing of three Kurdish men at the hands of Yazidis, Arabs are not the only victims.
“They [Yazidis] believe all Muslims are Isil,” said Saleh, 41, whose older brother was killed in the shooting.
When most of the residents from his hometown of Qabusi, just south of Sinjar city, fled from Isil, Saleh stayed behind and looked after his 200 sheep – his family’s main source of income.
The shepherd and 600 Sunni Kurds finally escaped Isil-held territory on Nov 15 with the help and protection of peshmerga soldiers.
Upon their arrival in Sinjar they were accused by a group of Yazidi peshmerga of stealing the livestock, which led to the violence that killed Saleh’s brother.
The incident was corroborated by peshmerga lieutenant Khero Khider, who confirmed that three Yazidi peshmerga and three Kurds were killed.
“Zuher was about 70 metres from the [Yazidi] ambush and he was the first to surrender,” recounted Saleh. “We heard the Yazidis yell, 'Isil have killed many of us, we will kill you’.”
According to Saleh, 21-year-old Zuher Hamza Abdullah was shot seven times before he bled to death. Abdullah Mohammad, 60, and Hassan Abbas, 47, were also among the victims.
Another Kurd who had been freed from Qabusi claimed to have been kicked and almost killed by a group of Yazidis.
“A group of women shielded me and they stopped,” said the 63-year-old. Back in the largely deserted town of Sinjar a young Yazidi peshmerga claimed that had he been present in Qabusi, he would not have allowed the Kurds to leave Isil territory.
“Half of my family is under Isil … we can’t stop ourselves from wanting to stop the peshmerga from letting them [the Kurds] through,” he said, standing next to the home of a Shia family that had been torched by Isil.
Outside the city’s main peshmerga base, yellow flags of the KDP flags – the party of Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani – hang from lamp posts.
On the the day of Sinjar’s liberation, Mr Barzani said the city had been freed by “the blood of the peshmerga and became part of Kurdistan”. In an area contested by a concoction of communities and militias, his rhetoric was not well-received by everyone.
“The Yazidis don’t trust the peshmerga and the peshmerga don’t trust the Yazidis,” said a Yazidi tribal leader. “Sinjar cannot be a place of coexistence again,” he added.
By Sofia Barbarani