As Yezidi Genocide Remembrance day approaches, our dear staff share their stories, reminding us that for the sake of all, we must not look the other way.
The heat is up to 46 celsius (115f) this week, add another 10 degrees for the temperature inside the tents. The atmosphere is tense and charged as the sixth memorial of the ongoing Yezidi genocide draws close. The pace is slow. Looking at people is like looking at dead men walking. The grave beckons. The finger of death points and counts its numbers, never satisfied. The Grim Reaper grins playing his death dirge, lulling his listeners into the slumber of the grave. Until August 3rd passes, it is a daily hell.
Behind our blue gates you will find a hive of activity as we work on our theme for the memorial event which we will hold on that day. Our theme is one of life “Graves into Gardens”. We are busy preparing the gardens, planning for a rooting of life. A stark contrast to the mass graves where many of our students' families are buried. Life. Life. Life. We can not get enough of it. Life.
This week in our update we will take a deliberate and yes painful walk into the escape from ISIS. For those of us who have dared to breathe the words uttered in the post- Holocaust generation, Never Again, we will read. We can not choose to look away, to return when the subject matter may be more to our taste. We dare not be apathetic or indifferent. We dare not ignore baseless hate. We would be fools to shrug another genocide off as happening to “some people over there in the Middle East”. We simply are our neighbor's keeper and we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
In reference to the Holocaust, Ralph Webster in his book, “A Smile in One Eye, a Tear in the Other”, wrote “Nothing about these times makes any sense. Putting it to words only makes it sound too simple“.
Today, I will refrain from using my words. The words that you will hear are those of my team, those who fled Sinjar running for their lives. Those who live in our quiet village and witnessed the refugees arriving. Those went out to help, not believing their eyes, unable to comprehend that which was taking place. Namely the 73rd Yezidi Genocide.
“He told me that what he owned and accumulated didn't matter. He still had his family. We still had our future. Go forward. You can't look back. It will destroy you if you do“.
“August 2nd is a holy day but that day in 2014, we could not celebrate because of the rumours that ISIS were advancing towards Sinjar. The men in my family took their rifles and went out with the villagers to watch and protect if anything should happen.
That night, the night that led into August 3rd, we could not sleep. We heard the sound of the bullets from inside our village and also bullets and firing from further away. We called relatives in the next village and agreed to meet in the early morning and make a plan. We decided to head to the mountain for immediate protection and make our way to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
We knew we may never meet each other again
My Father wanted us all to split up and take different routes, we are a large family but none of us agreed. We actually argued for three hours about where to go. We had to split up into the vehicles that we had. That was the moment when it became real. I was leaving my home, being separated from my family. My brother and I went with my uncle. My sisters with someone else, in all the confusion, I don't even remember with whom they went. We did not speak our thoughts but we knew that we may never meet each other again.
ISIS was now in our village, taking its captives, shooting with heavy weapons. We were terrified and in a hurry to escape. Bullets were flying everywhere, ducking your head was of no use, as they were coming thick and fast from every which way. I was in a pick up truck that could barely drive, maybe one hundred people were piled in. Like cattle, we didn't care, we just had to get out, hopefully alive.
Our vehicle crashed, it went off the road, of course it would, being so overloaded. We were all crying and screaming. By our overturned pick up there was a bombed car with dead bodies trapped inside. Then it became even more real. This was a fight for life and death and we did not know which would win. We had to walk. We had no water. We knew nothing about our family, we had no cell phone, we had no time to ask, we just had to keep going.
The next day by chance we found my family. My mother was pregnant, we didn't know if she would make it, if her baby would live or die. Her condition was so bad that we thought she would miscarry en route to safety. There was no guarantee of anything.
We piled into another of the relatives' vehicles and drove until we crossed the border and came to Shariya village. One family opened their home to us, gave us mattresses and food. We stayed with them for one week. We were in shock, reliving every moment, and hearing news of nothing but death and captivity. We didn't