This little Christian town in northern Iraq remains a sad, abandoned place more than nine months after the Islamic State was kicked out. Row upon row of houses stand burned and destroyed. The churches are vandalized and blackened with soot. Only a fraction of the population has returned.

But after the first bar was reopened two weeks ago, things have been looking up.

Ya Hala — which means welcome — was once one of eight bars in Qaraqosh, and its return offers one small glimpse of hope for the ancient Christian community uprooted by the Islamic State during its sweep through northern Iraq in August 2014.

Owner Hani Ayoub Yacoub al-Najjar, 63, is hoping the revival of the bar, which he ran for more than 10 years before the Islamic State swept in, will encourage more Christians to return to their homes.

“When people see that there’s a bar open, it means life is going back to normal,” he said, speaking on a recent afternoon at one of the cloth-covered tables dotting the dimly lit bar.


Read the whole story from The Washington Post.

Featured image courtesy of AP