When Emilienne Malfatto first stepped foot in Sinjar, a remote massif in northwestern Iraq, she felt that everything, even time itself, was suspended.It was the summer of 2015. A year before, the Islamic State, or ISIS, had invaded the region in a genocidal campaign against the Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking religious minority whose roots in the mountains go back centuries. The militants systemically murdered thousands of men and abducted thousands of women who were then either sold into servitude or forced into sexual slavery.Kurdish and Yazidi fighters recaptured the city in November 2015, and residents slowly began to return to their decimated villages. Ms. Malfatto, a French photographer, has been documenting their attempts to rebuild their lives in her series “Back Home.”“It’s very much a project about living in the aftermath of the destruction of your community,” Ms. Malfatto said.More than three years after the city’s liberation, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis remain displaced across the country with nowhere to return to, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Unlike elsewhere in Iraq where reconstruction is slowly happening, in Sinjar it never even started,” the report says. The city still lacks basic services like water, electricity, security and health centers. Homes lay devastated. Bombs and booby-traps left by ISIS litter the streets.The route to Sinjar has myriad checkpoints manned by several rival militias, which has made it difficult for aid organizations to reach the city. All these complications made Ms. Malfatto wonder why some Yazidis would return to their homeland under such conditions.Early on, she noticed how difficult it was for the returnees to feel completely safe. One family she stayed with had an emergency bag filled with clothes and money, in case ISIS or another hostile group attacked Sinjar again.Ms. Malfatto has become particularly close with the Khalaf family, originally from Tal Qasab, a village south of Mount Sinjar. “They describe it a bit like a lost paradise,” she said. Before ISIS stormed the area, the Khalafs led a happy, simple life. It was by no means easy: The family was impoverished and many of them were illiterate. Yet there were few major disturbances.Today, Ms. Malfatto says Tal Qasab is completely abandoned. So the Khalafs settled in Borek, a village on the northern side of the mountain. “It’s been interesting to see the evolution,” she said. “The first time I met them, you could really feel the trauma.”The family was relatively lucky. In 2014, they had seen the ISIS convoy headed their way and managed to escape immediately. They didn’t stay atop Mount Sinjar, unlike many other Yazidis who were trapped there without food or water. But one male relative, Qassem, had to briefly return to the village after the family escaped and was kidnapped by ISIS. To survive, Qassem told Ms. Malfatto, he converted to Islam — or at least, pretended to — and ISIS spared him.Now, life is inching back to normalcy. But it is largely a contradictory existence. Schools have reopened and the Khalafs feel slightly more relaxed. They are even building a house near Sharaffadin, a village on the base of Mount Sinjar, where they say they feel safe, protected.The family has also told Ms. Malfatto that they sometimes regret returning, and that there is no future in Sinjar. ISIS may be gone, but an undercurrent of fear and mistrust runs throughout the area, and to some extent, the whole country.“Social fabric has been destroyed in Iraq,” Ms. Malfatto says. As the violence heightened in recent years, friends and neighbors often turned their backs on one another and singled out victims. The Yazidis still feel threatened by neighboring Muslim villages, and talk of ISIS sleeper cells has kept them on edge.“How do you live with that and how do you rebuild something with that?” Ms. Malfatto said.For the Yazidis, hope lives on in their temples. One of their rituals involves praying to Melek Taus — the Peacock Angel — by tying a knot on colorful, silky pieces of cloth draped over tombs while simultaneously untying someone else’s. By doing so, a devotee asks Melek Taus to fulfill those wishes, too.“It’s just a beautiful way of doing things,” Ms. Malfatto said. She feels that her images from the temple are relatively unexpected compared with others in Iraq. Destruction serves as a backdrop, but within the frames, there’s only life.