We were so fortunate to spend several days working with award winning journalist, Jane Arraf, and producer, Omar Abdul Kader, to make this short film about the women we are seeking to help through our project. We spent some time with families in Dellal City and Dellal Towers, construction sites in Zakho, where approximately 6,000 people are living. These Yezidi families from Shengal (Sinjar) suffered so much prior to their displacement – many are missing family members, many witnessed murder and torture, and others were abducted, tortured and raped by ISIS. Now they live in precarious housing, with great uncertainty about food, water, electricity, extremely limited medical services, and no schooling for their children. In many cases, the families do not want to move to the camps, and it is difficult for the government, the UN and NGOs to provide regular services in these construction sites.
We also filmed in Bajad Kandal I and II, which are IDP (internally-displaced persons) camps for a mostly-Yezidi population in Dohuk. These camps shelter approximately 13,000 people, many of whom were stranded for months in the mountains of Shengal, and made a treacherous walk through Syria to reach Kurdistan. So many lost relatives during fighting, while they were up in the mountains, or on their exodus to freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The women we spoke with shared their stories freely, including about their time in captivity by ISIS, and their brave escapes. We could only share small segments of their stories in our short film but we will try to release other footage soon. We found their communities, families, and spouses embraced their return. (In fact, while there may be cases, we have not come across any evidence of women being rejected from any community.) Their reunification, however, is under bleak circumstances. They struggle with their trauma, often alone, in a tent, with no other distraction but small daily chores.
While we only had a brief glimpse into their lives, Tanya and I came away from this experience with the strong belief that our program can help women like this to heal, feel valued, and to be productive, contributing members of their communities… and some of them can be leaders.