12.29.2019 in Iraqi Kurdistan
Nahida, age 9.
Displaced from Sinjar, Iraq, when she was five years old Nahida has spent the past four years living in a tent in the Bajad Kandala displacement camp in Iraqi Kurdistan with her mother and five siblings. Her father stayed behind in 2014 to fight ISIS and they have not heard from him since. The family hopes to be resettled to another country, but the process for resettlement is long and arduous and they have not received word of progress with their application in nearly a year. One day Nahida wishes to be a school teacher.
Ferman, which translates to “genocide” and his sister Madrid play while I interview their mother, Nadine, in the family’s tent within the Bajed Kandala Yazidi Displacement Camp near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Nadine was pregnant when she and thousands of others were forced to flee their home Sinjar when ISIS attacked the city with the goal of eradicating the Yazidi population. Born shortly after arriving to the displacement camp in August 2014 Nadine named her son to commemorate the ongoing persecution of the Yazidi population.
The road that dissects Bajad Kandala 1 and Bajad Kandala camp 2 is known as the deadliest in Kurdistan. 24 hours a day and throughout each day of the week tanker trucks can be seen plowing down the narrow two-lanes highway that connects Kurdistan with Turkey. The trucks are near always carrying oil from one locale to the other. Over the course of the past four years that the camp has been open over 20 persons have died while trying to cross between the two camps.
Dusk falls over the Bajad Kandala displacement camp. 01.06.19
I’ve several days yet remaining in Kurdistan but the reality of me leaving to return to my comfortable life is starting to crystallize. Those who’ve allowed me into their lives—many of whom I now call friends— will remain here, their futures but a question mark. I’m buoyed by the strength and the resilience I’ve witnessed while simultaneously being saddened and infuriated by the injustice.
A little bit of light, shadow and moment in the Shariya Yazidi displacement camp outside of Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan.
When the #yezidi community from Sinjar was forced to flee from ISIS in August 2014 the education of thousands of children and young adults was disrupted. Today, in the Bajad Kandala camp in Iraqi Kurdistan some NGOs and a host of Kurdish volunteer teachers are working to aid in education efforts. Though classes are only for a few hours several days a week if one is to walk through the camp they will see children and young adults studying in their spare moments, many working to learn English, all doing so in the hope of finding a good job.
Can you imagine being confined for over four years to a place whose perimeter you could walk in less than 30 minutes?
A fenced enclosure, the Bajad Kandala displacement camp has limited entry and exit points ... so when this little lady opted to cut loose for a bit I could hardly blame her. As I watched her run off I found myself thinking how rarely I recognized the privilege of my own freedom.
In just the past week Iraq has shared with me much of its pain as well as much of its beauty. I’ve been welcomed into the lives of many and been witness to examples of hope and resilience by those who’ve suffered immensely. As I welcome in the new year (my first new year here ) I’m reminded that it’s a privilege to be a witness—I’m grateful for this life and wish for little more than to continue on this path. .
The best is yet to come, folks. Peace and love from Iraq 🇮🇶 ❤️ ✌️
Dusk falls following the Yazidi wedding of Amera and Samir outside the Bajad Kandala displacement camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Several hundred from the Yazidi community turned out for an afternoon and evening of celebration — after which they returned to their tents. All are displaced Yazidis from Sinjar and have been living in the camp since the August 2014 ISIS siege that left thousands dead, thousands captured and that still today leaves tens of thousands unable to return to their homes.
One of the many consequences of displacement—whether it be because of conflict, poverty, environmental, political or otherwise—is the disruption of education for children and young adults alike. While in Mosul last year I remember meeting young adults, similar in age to myself, who had no choice but to abandon their studies when ISIS took hold of the city.
For the Yazidis displaced from Sinjar in August 2014 the story is similar — despite efforts from (some) NGOs and individual volunteers, education halted as people were forced to flee and has yet to resume the regularity or attendance that existed in Sinjar. in the Bajad Kandala camp in Iraqi Kurdistan one school operates and the majority of educational efforts are being made by volunteers—other displaced Yazidis living with the camp.
A Yazidi elder observes the wedding ceremony of Amera and Samir, a young Yazidi couple married yesterday just outside the Bajad Kandala displacement camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Both the bride and groom—as well as the several hundred from the Yazidi community that attended— have lived in the camp since he 2014 ISIS siege on Sinjar.
Day II /
Beginning with an attack by the Islamic State in Sinjar on August 3, 2014 (an attack that lasted for days before US airstrikes and local forces provided aid) human rights organizations estimate that between 2,000 and 5,500 Yazidi people have been killed, and over 7,000 have been kidnapped, It is likely these numbers are much higher, given the uncertainty in estimating casualties in areas previously occupied by ISIS.
It’s a cold, rainy first night in the Bajed Kandala 2 camp for displaced Yazidis. Of the nearly 200,000 Yazidis still displaced four years after the ISIS seige on Sinjar, approximately 15,000 call the Bajed Kandala camps home. I’ll be here for the next 2 weeks teaching, photographing and just spending time ... please consider following along.