A man holds a baby as refugees arrive on the shore of Sykamias beach, west of the port city of Mytilini, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on September 20, 2015 in Lesvos Island, Greece. AFP PHOTO / IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU
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MYTILENE, Greece: Among the tens of thousands fleeing war and despair in the Middle East, one group feels a special relief in reaching Europe: those who have escaped areas ruled by ISIS extremists and the harsh scrutiny of their religious police.For many who lived in the ruined landscape of ISIS' self-declared "caliphate" across parts of Syria and Iraq, constant fear is what finally drove them to Western Europe.Ahmad left his wife and three children behind in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the caliphate, and said he plans to send for them once he finds refuge in Europe.More than 175,000 Syrians and nearly 10,000 Iraqis have made the dangerous sea journey to Greece this year, part of a massive influx fueled in part by Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year. Many of them have lived in Turkey, sometimes for years, before making the journey to Western Europe.Not long after Syrian rebels took over half of Deir al-Zor in 2013, Abdullah and his family fled the fighting to another part of Syria. But he went back often to check on his house, staying for weeks at a time, even as ISIS fighters drove out the rebels last year and took sole control of that half of the city, while the rest remained in government hands.When the extremists blew up the shrine of the prophet Younis, known in the Bible as Jonah, Omar said he had had enough.He and his family, who are Sunnis, left for Baghdad after five months under ISIS rule.
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