Many thanks to those who responded so affirmingly to our request for help to rent a small store in the village for Sewing Hope. Your kind gifts have been set aside until we are able to move forward.
It has been quite the week commencing with the birth of Almas, Diamond around 03.00 on Saturday May 14, the arrival of a new 3 year old mare, Destiny on Monday May 16th, and the closing of the week with Art in the Park a Performing Arts event hosted by our students for the benefit of the village community.
I have the feeling that little Almas will soon be the proud owner of his personal Insta page, he at the tender age of two days bonded with Oscar, managed to contract “Weather Virus" probably from the dust storm that shut down our region for 24 hours, for which he needed an IV and by yesterday had discovered the tastiness of grass!! He is surely going to be quite the character.
We will share about Art in the Park next week, herewith a few photos by way of a ‘teaser’. It was an event marked by joy and life and stood out by way of comparison with the atmosphere in the village, all of whom remarked that they had never seen anything like this. Our students, the older art students who were in position as mentors to younger children, and our music students realized that they were contributing to changing the atmosphere in the village, of pioneering something that was culturally new.
Over the years we have watched as our kids, our students were released via the payment of exorbitant ransom from ISIS, or discovered under the rubble of neighbourhoods such as Baghouz, or found being dragged behind fleeing captors in the tunnels under Raqqa, and more recently being identified in totally cloak and dagger operations inside the Al Hawl Camp.
All have come to us by word of mouth. The name Springs of Hope has been used by extended families pleading with nephews and nieces who queried their identities as Yezidis having become so brainwashed to “allow themselves to be rescued” really as a promise of freedom, love, acceptance and provision.
We have made it part of our protocol to provide a financial springboard and safety net for every rescued (and usually orphaned) student who comes through our blue gate. They return from ISIS with nothing. Nothing begins with parents, siblings, home, education, and of course reflects in possessions. They return in the garb that they were forced to wear in ISIS.
We spend time looking for people with wise and generous hearts who are willing to financially adopt our rescued kiddies. To help provide them a fresh start in life. To let them know that they are not alone, they are seen amidst the clamour of the world, and their plight is recognised.
I appreciate the Hebrew Biblical term “Yizkor”, “And God remembered, or and God turned the spotlight on” because it is inevitably followed by an action. Emotion, seeing, hearing, that became tangible acts, from making winds blow, to opening barren wombs, to acting for the sake of His covenant. Hearing, seeing, remembering were not passing emotions, He was the first responder.
As you read the short stories of some of our kiddies, our family, our tribe who need financial care and adoption I would ask you to consider becoming their ‘first responder’. I would ask you to consider Yizkor, Redemption, and Ransom.
“My name is Faraj and I am ten years old. When ISIS attacked my village of Kojo, which then became a mass grave, I was one year old. I didn't know what was happening, but I do remember a period of panic and I know that my mum, my sister and I were separated from my father and the males in my family. We were moved from place to place, taken to Tel Afar, to Mosul, and then to Syria. We lived in tunnels deep under the ground. I lived underground for four years. They beat my mother and I every day, with ropes, with guns, with everything they had. One day they beat me so hard with a rifle that they broke both my legs. They put them in a plaster cast for several months until they healed although even now I suffer from my legs. The greatest problem was the darkness of the tunnels, there was no light so when I was rescued my eyes were very weak and had almost lost their vision.
Faraj at the time of rescue
After I was rescued, those still alive in our family paid the ransom for me, I was taken to doctors whose diagnosis was the same “Your eyes have dried up, there is no cure.”
Everything is hard for me, I have no education, I would like to go to school but it is hard for me to see. I come to Springs of Hope, they are my family but it is hard for me to participate in everything in the same way as other kids. I do my best. I am happy there. At the moment I am doing play therapy, I hope that my eyes will become stronger and that I will be able to join one of the sports teams.”
“I am Amera, I am 28 years old, and I live in Essiyan camp. I was captured by ISIS and taken to Syria where Daesh imprisoned me for a few months. I was tortured, beaten, and starved. They then brought me back to Sinjar where they sold me to an Iraqi man who took me to Mosul. I became his second wife, and served him in every way, and served his first wife in the house. They both abused me, he sexually, she with punishment and slave labour. I was his sexual entertainment, there for his desire whenever he wanted.
Amera in the heavy black clothes of Daesh
They changed my name, made me wear the heavy black clothes of Daesh. Sometimes having been raped (though for him it was not rape as I was his wife) and beaten, I could barely stand under the weight and the heat of the heavy clothes. Every day I thought of ways to escape, to run away but I was terrified of them. Even when Mosul was liberated from ISIS I was scared to run and be discovered as a Yezidi.
Thank God, my Iraqi captor-husband was killed during the airstrikes on Mosul, the allied forces found me under the rubble of the house and brought me to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
I was so happy on two counts, firstly I was free from Daesh and secondly, I was freed from the imprisonment of the black clothes. Although I had suffered greatly, I became pregnant and had a child by my captor, I rejoiced when I removed the black clothes. It felt as if I was peeling off a skin that did not belong to me.
That is one reason why I love Sewing Hope, I love the colour, I love the freedom of choice of fabric, and texture. It is a strong statement of my new life. As for my baby, I have no information.”
“I am Kheri, I live in Shariya camp with my grandparents. They are old and I hope that they will not die, all my family are killed. I am 14 years old. ISIS captured me and all my family, they separated me from my family in the first hours of the attack and took me to Syria.
My name was changed to Abu Abdullah. I was put into an Islamic school that operated according to the philosophy of the Islamic Caliphate. I had to learn fast, I had to learn the Quran, the rules of the Caliphate, I had to pray five times a day. It was so hard to learn and to memorise everything in Syrian Arabic, every mistake meant punishment. Everything and anything that we did wrong meant we would be beaten or tortured.
I was taken with my friends to their military bases where we were trained for war. I was used as a human shield on the frontlines. Every day was hell. There was no food in Baghouz for several months, all I ate was about one small cup of lentil soup twice a week. My friends and I were literally starving. For those years I did not shower, I did not sleep. We were always being sent to fight, always on the move, always the shields. I was injured several times but always sent back to fight.
During the air strikes, my friends and I were discovered. It was a day that I will never forget. It was bitter sweet. Finally, I was rescued, and brought to Kurdistan. I was happy but then when I asked about my parents, my brothers, sisters, cousins, I was told that ISIS had killed all of them. Only I remained, the sole survivor. When I heard that bitter news I wished that I had died on the frontlines, what was life without anyone.
Springs of Hope has become my home, my family. Later I discovered that two of my cousins are alive, so we are very, very, close, like family. I would like to go to school but I am too old to begin. I go to classes at SOHF and of course I love sports. I hope that I will be able to make a good future for myself.”
I shared some of Maqbula’s story in last week’s update, Lessons from the Sewing Room READ IT HERE but will add a few details which she asked to be shared with you.
“I spent much of my time in captivity in prison because I kept trying to escape. I was determined to get away somehow, the fifth time when I ran and was caught my captor kept me in prison for several months, with very little food or water, sometimes days went by without anything. This was the period when there was no food to be found in Baghouz.
The prison was underground, without any source of light. There was a tiny hole for some air which was always hot and smelled of dust. But in the early hours of the morning the smallest sliver of light would come through for a few short thin minutes. Those of us in prison were the women of darkness, we would line up just for a second of this pale but glorious light.
The prison was crowded, the air was boiling, we wore the heavy black clothes which were wet with sweat and smelled of rape.
When the battle for Baghouz began I was released from prison along with the other women of darkness, I hoped that was “it” I was being rescued but no, I was taken to the frontlines to be a human shield. Day after day on the frontlines, total terror. A never-ending horror.
Amazingly, thanks be to God, I survived, I was found and released during the air raids. I was of course very happy to have survived those years of hell but very sad to discover that most of my family were killed.
The first thing I did was to burn all my black clothes, everything. Some of the girls kept a black glove to remember this period. I burned everything. I still have no ability to wear the clothes that I would like but I have hope for my life, and am learning sewing as I hope to be able to open a small business for myself.”
A verse from this week’s Torah portion ( Leviticus 25: 36 ) states, “The life of your brother is with you." I quote from Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch who expounded upon this verse in his writing, “Educational Worldview” 2013; “The whole of the development of his life, the fulfilment of the mission of his life, is closely bound up with you and yours. You are not there only for yourself, and you do not earn only for yourself...part of this mission in life is to acquire also the means to help the brother who is connected with you, to achieve the mission Yizkor of his life. His life is bound up with you and with what you possess.”