“There was silence. Then I heard a voice.” Job 4:16
Recently I have heard one phrase echoed and reiterated by our young adults time after time. “We want to raise our voice. We want our voice to be heard." This update is theirs. It is their voice. A clarion call. Clear and direct. It comes after nine years of silence.
As you listen to their voices, you will see that they carry the weight of crimes against humanity on their shoulders. That despite their engagement with life, they need justice such as humankind can bring.
It will not be easy reading. Some of you may choose to come back next week when there will be something lighter to read about. It is however our reality and yet another reason why we continue to live together close to these young men and women whose voices you will hear today, and I believe will disturb you.
“Justice will not be served until those unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
“For nine years we have faced endless challenges. Our homes in Sinjar are still destroyed. Even if someone would rebuild my house, I could not return to the place where my four brothers were murdered in front of my eyes.
The village will never be what it was, but if we had new homes, with guaranteed security, then we could at least be close to our land again which has been our family’s legacy for many generations and is very dear to us.
I raise my voice today so that all will know that after nine years my family is either dead or in captivity. After nine years I have no information.
Education has been one of our greatest challenges. No one has opened the door for us to return to school, we lost the greatest tool of our life, education.
If, God willing, somehow, one day I become a man with power, wealth or influence, I would use it to build schools, to build houses for those who have nothing, and to take care of the widows and orphans. May God grant that I can do these things."
Mosa: Missing family. Father. 2 siblings. Mother is alive but in bad psychological condition.
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless, maintain the rights of the afflicted and destitute.”
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to raise my voice and to speak about the challenges that the survivors of ISIS face.
It is challenging and a never ending process to gain documents granting us the status of “Survivor of ISIS” so that if one day there should be compensation, we would be able to receive it.
We are given the run around in these offices, and treated without respect or dignity. The officials look at us with not good eyes.
Most of the survivors are still living in camps without anyone to care for them. They came from captivity to a camp, many live in the camp with the mattress they were given on the first day of arrival, and with nothing more.
The survivors in general, and women in particular should have been treated with more care, more respect. They need psychological support, financial support and a better life in general.
I know survivors who came from captivity speaking only Arabic, their minds and bodies were broken yet in order to eat they had to get up and go and work in the fields for twelve hours a day. They had no time to even sleep and allow their bodies to begin to relax.
We all know too many NGOs who take pictures, make a lot of noise, do great public relations but it is all a lie. You know who has helped us. No one else.
Thank you for listening to me.”
Eman: 8 members of her family were in captivity, all were rescued.
"Since listening to Eman I have asked her to connect us with such women who have fallen through the cracks and remained there, those for whom cracks have become a permanent feature of their life." -L
“Son of man, can these bones live?”
“My greatest concern and priority is to receive information about our missing family members. The mass graves should be opened, the bones exhumed and examined. Whatever the verdict is, we have to know. The lack of knowledge, eats away at each one of us.
If they are bones in a mass grave then we want to give them an honorable burial. If they are alive then there should be a formal delegation who searches for them, who negotiates for them. It should not be for us to try to gather information, to pay people for information that we have no idea is reliable or not. These are things that the government should have done for the sake of its own people.
As survivors we can not return to Shingal. There is no security, who knows what will happen to us there. What if one of our captors who lived in the village next to us, has returned? What then?
We need homes, we need security, we need education. If I had not had Springs of Hope, as with all my friends, we would have not received any education.
We do not want to be a burden on anyone. We want education. We want work, We want to take care of ourselves. We want a clear future." Hina: Missing family. Parents and one sister. All her family were in captivity.
“Justice, justice you shall pursue.”
“The situation is very hard for me. We have lost everything, home, family, friends, life, work, education. My priority is for the mass graves to be opened. I have to know where my family are, under the ground in Sinjar, or lost somewhere in Syria. It is impossible to live without knowing.
I live with my two brothers in the camp. Our only education is at SOHF. We have nothing.
Sadly I think that we have no choice but to leave our homeland, to go abroad where people will treat us with dignity and give us an education and work. But then how can I leave here when I don't know where my family are? 9 years and the world passed by very quickly. NGOs came and made a noise, then moved on to someplace more attractive. We are left with memories, and lack of knowledge.
Thank you for listening. At least now you can not say that no one told you. You can not say, nine years later I did not know.“
Sarbast: Missing family. Mother and two siblings.
“You shall not subvert the rights of... the orphan”
Deut 24: 17
“The Iraqi government has opened some mass graves, but there are still many that need to be opened. They have taken bones for the DNA test, but everything takes years. Years that are silent. There is no one to talk to. All I want to know is if the bones are my parents and siblings. I want to bury them and make the obligatory meal for them, to slaughter sheep and pray for them.
I want education. No one would accept me to school because I had spent too many years in the captivity of ISIS. The officials treat me as if it was my choice to be there.
All I want is bones and education."
Hani: Missing 7 family members
“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.”
“I lost all of my family members. Everyone. Just one sister is left. I want justice not for myself but for all my family.
I want the graves to be opened. I want the government to look for my missing family. I don't think that I have to live on social media and in dark internet places endangering my life whilst trying to find if my family are alive or dead.
I want education, I want a house in a place that is secure. I don't think that I am asking for too much. From captivity to a tent was yet another shock from which we have not recovered.
If the government would rebuild Sinjar, provide health care and education along with security so that I can close my eyes in safety, I would return. I would like to work with survivors and help run a self help group. But. But. Reality is different."
Shireen: Missing family. Father. Mother. 2 siblings.
"So that we can get the larger still picture, the UN estimates that there area about 250,000 and 1 million Iraqi people who have “disappeared” through reasons of war since 1968, their location unknown, This makes Iraq one of the countries with the highest number of war connected disappearances in the world." -L.
“I know that there are still thousands of Yezidis, our families stuck in the Al Hol camp. We endanger ourselves by trying to find them. Their lives are in danger if they try to reach us. I want someone with power to put effort into finding them and bringing them home to us instead of leaving them to rot and die in another caliphate.”
Haitham: Missing family. 5 siblings.
"I use my voice to ask for the opening of the mass graves. When they open and take the bones to Baghdad, at least a year, sometimes more passes with no word, no information. Our air in our lungs is taken out from us time after time while we wait for information. I use my voice to ask for a formal delegation to go to Al Hol camp, and find and return our families. Why are we supposed to communicate with the Caliphate, and find the money to hope they will be returned without someone cheating us? I use my voice to request security in Sinjar. 9 years in a camp with no services is way too long. We need our homes and our lands back. All of the survivors need more help than one NGO can give. The world should wake up and help. Help through the NGO but help. No one hears our voice." Azher: Missing family. Mother. 2 siblings.
“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears, I will heal you.“ ”
2 Kings 20:5
"Many of us lost body parts when we were on the battlefields of ISIS or when caught in shelling of neighborhoods like Baghouz when the Allied Forces targeted our captors’ homes and we got hit by bombs or the shrapnel
There are many of us who need surgery, but there is no one who will pay for it or direct us to trustworthy surgeons who care about our welfare."
Fahad: Missing family. Father. Siblings killed in Syria.
“A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about my condition. My greatest obstacle is education. I went to school in Syria, yes it was Islamic and all in Arabic, but I completed grade 6. As soon as I was released and came to Kurdistan, my brother and I went to register for school. I wasted no time, I went directly but I was told that because I had not been a part of the Kurdish system I had to start at grade one with the kids of 6 years old. I decided to try hoping that maybe they would see that I have education, and that my Kurdish was returning. Sadly no one paid attention to me, I was wasting my time and was totally out of place. I have tried and tried but no one listens to me, no one helps me.
I also need surgery. My body is covered with shrapnel which moves around and is painful but yet again no one cares.
So I am stuck with my education, stuck with my health. I do not have a clear future."
Mazen: Missing family. Mother, Father, 4 siblings.
“The most important issue is information about our missing families. We have no idea whether they are dead or alive. There is not one government body who has taken the responsibility of locating them. No one. Nine years is a long time to be left hanging, guessing, with continual worry, not knowing.
We all need a "green card" which would enable us to go to the doctor without payment. We all have many medical problems and continually need medical treatment. The green card is also needed for when we go to government offices, it defines us as "survivors" which is important for our dignity.
No one has provided for us financially, our only support comes from SOHF. The government should help us, should provide a house but they don't. We are still survivors, just in a different system.
I would love to return to Sinjar, and to have a job where I could work with orphans but reality says that it is too dangerous to return, and there is neither work, nor health nor education services there. Thank you for listening.” Yusra: Missing family. Mother. Father. 3 siblings.
“A man is not established by wickedness but the root of the righteous can not be moved.”
"I want to see an International Criminal Court that will take on the Yezidi case. I ,and I speak for all my friends, want to see each ISIS member arrested, brought to court and punished for all the crimes committed under his name and the name of the Islamic State. Crimes of Genocide against the Yezidi people and crimes against humanity.
We need to look at them face to face. We need to hear their voices admitting their crimes. We need information from them, what they did with our family members and where they are now, dead or alive. We want the locations of all the mass graves from them.
I don't just say words. I spend my time fighting for this. Justice must come.
We need justice. We need dignity. We need closure."
Alo: Missing family. Father. Siblings killed in Syria.
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together.”
You will see that some of the students are holding envelopes in their hands which contain the monthly support that thanks to you, we are able to give them.
Our desire is to support each survivor so that they have something to help them. We know that it is a drop in the bucket but it is given at the beginning of each month so that they can depend upon that as steady income and plan around it.
We currently have 15 survivors without monthly support. If you are willing and able to commit to one year, i.e. 12 monthly payments each of $60 please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please now, more than ever continue helping us to walk together with our kids, those whose lives have been torn apart and their voices stifled.