Should you ask a Yezidi survivor of captivity in ISIS what they want, family and dignity will be their immediate response, soon followed by “I want my voice to be heard.” By writing each week my desire is to release their voice through the work and activities that we do. It is to give them a platform to share their thoughts and opinions which are usually well developed. When I ask students to sit down and chat about an event in which they participated, their eyes light up as if to say “I have been seen and noted, my voice has been heard.”
Hosting multi-media events is a chilled out, non invasive way to release their voice. Our focus this week is on Social Media, an event we hosted inside the Garden, accompanied by art and music. I hope that you, like me, see aspects of Social Media that you would have never thought of.
“My name is Faiza and I am a survivor of ISIS. I am in favor of Social Media, it’s a great way to connect, share ideas, information and empathy.
When I was taken captive to Syria, I had no idea that such a concept existed. I saw my captor and his friends on something called Facebook, this was all new to me, I thought it was an app created just for Daesh. One day I asked if anyone could access FB, they told me that anyone in any place could create an account.
This gave me an idea. Whenever I asked about my family, I was told that they were all dead. I was told that no Yezidis were alive, only those of us who were taken into Syria. I kept quiet and waited, eventually they gave me a phone. When I was alone I downloaded FB and began to search for information on the Yezidi community. I saw camps in Kurdistan, I saw Lalish, I saw shrines, I was so happy. Daesh had lied to me, Yezidis had escaped and were alive. That gave me the ability to make connections, to let people in the community know that I am alive. FB gave me the hope to hang in, be strong, be brave. Because of FB I am alive and here now.”
“My name is Hanan and I am 15 years old. I actually think that FB is destructive. I prefer Instagram as people are kinder and more supportive there
I see the dark side of Social Media. I see the way that it consumes our lives and separates families. My painting is of a construction. I painted the F as if it were an apartment, the door is black, the corridor portrays full wifi connectivity. The first floor has two people, one walking with his mobile, one standing. The second floor is one sitting with his laptop. I didn't have to look far for inspiration for my painting, it reflects my siblings, connected to an app and not to each other.
I deleted my FB account and I intend to delete my Instagram one too as I want real life connections and to focus on my studies.”
- Hanan, Yezidi from Shariya Camp
"I am Khalida, 19 years old and illiterate. I never went to school in Shingal which, since living in Shariya Camp, I regret. I am now learning all that I can in Springs of Hope Foundation, from literacy to art, in order to make up for time that I wasted.
My painting was simple yet direct. FB devours our time. I exercise self-control and only use it at night until I fall asleep. I have lost enough in my life, I don't want it to eat my time away only to discover that I have lost even more years.”
- Khalida, Yezidi from Shariya Camp.
"Hi everyone, this is Kristina. When I first came back from captivity everything was new to me. Many people and organizations told me to make a FB page and to connect with them so that they could help me. They shared my posts but never helped me.
It was quite a while until I was accepted into school, in that period I learned about YouTube which I know is not Social Media, and I studied vocabulary on my own and began the long journey of educating myself.
FB took on more importance during the COVID 19 lockdown when the schools and learning institutions were closed, for some of the time we were confined six or eight people to one tent and Social Media was at first a lifesaver but then as we wasted hours it became like the virus and spread from one to the other.
I have not made new friends, I have discovered that I have a voice, I have content and want to speak out so I use FB and Instagram for my purposes and then get on with my studies.
My life is at Springs of Hope, so most of my posts are made there and are about our Hope Family.”
"My name is Walid, I am 16 years old and I have totally made up my mind about Social Media. My painting reflects my opinion. There are two worlds, one is normal full of life, light, nature, football, positive things that help one develop and are very important to those of us who live in tents.
There is a second world, it is dark, non successful, a world where kids swallow what they see on FB, where the world, reality actually get twisted.
I have deleted my FB and this week I will delete Instagram. I have set the course of my life and don’t want all the distractions of Social Media. I have no interest whether my friends are busy with it or not, I want to be a Paediatric Doctor which places my focus on studies. One year ago I knew only a little English, now thanks to lessons at Springs of Hope I speak quite well and even have an American accent.
My passion actually is art, sculpture and music, but I have to make a good living, so I will be a doctor. I plan on learning Mandarin. So definitely NO to Social Media.”
- Walid, Yezidi from Shariya Camp
"I am definitely not against Social Media, most of us who were in captivity needed it. I tracked family members only through FB. Finding family and friends was like coming back from the dead. Many of us were quietly able to find people, and send signals so that they would know that we are alive. Many of us are here today because we were able to give locations to rescuers.
So like everything, we have to know how to use it, and how to benefit, otherwise, as my friends say, it will eat our time and our soul."
"Hello, my name is Ghada and I am from Syria. I live in War City. My views are clear. FB and all those apps are a waste of time, they entrap us and steal our life and future"
"It was very easy for me to paint on the subject of Social Media. Maybe our culture is different from other people’s, for me, it is a total waste of time, like the sand running out of the timer. I do not use it and will not use it."
- Barya, Syrian from War City
As for me, I track maybe 100 of our rescued teens and young adults, and 20 students who are refugees. I give them “likes” and hugs and no lack of emojis to let them know that they have been seen and noticed and that their post ( usually of themself ) has been appreciated. I know which one has gone to Sinjar, where in Sinjar, I know their feelings. I know who is about to be returned from a Lithuanian detention camp. I know who buried family members, who has gone to a conference in Baghdad, who has won a competition. I know who is “blessed", who is “angry" and who is “sad". I see their birthdays even before our daily office list comes out, and send out messages at a rude 7 am, “Cake for Wassim today".
For now, FB and IG are part of doing life with our kids.