KHAZIR CHECKPOINT, Iraq — Lilian stood by the side of the road at this dusty checkpoint along the Erbil-Mosul highway. In skinny jeans and a polka-dot blouse, she looked a bit out of place.
Most of the other Iraqis on the road are very poor, while Lilian an her family are middle class. Most of the other Iraqis fleeing now are doing so because they couldn’t afford to before. Lilian and her family are fleeing now because the violence finally hit too close to home.
A little after midnight Wednesday night, Lilian and her family heard shells drop near their home in Karamlish outside Mosul. Unable to tell if the violence was getting closer or not, they decided to hit the road. By 6 the next morning they were on their way to Erbil located in Iraq’s relatively safe, semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“We heard that Daah doesn’t hurt civilians, but I don’t know,” said the 21-year-old student, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the insurgent group currently taking on the Iraqi government.
“Honestly, I don’t know what we will do,” she said with a nervous laugh.
Everyone in Iraq is worried, but Lilian and her family are worried for slightly different reasons than most other people. They are Christian, and while the sectarian divisions plaguing Iraq are mostly between Muslims, the violence that has resulted spares no one.