"I am Shex Vagar Nawzad Khamo. My name, as everyone here reflects my generations, my father is Nawzad, my grandfather is Khamo. I was born and raised in Shariya to a musical family. From as early as I remember I have always had some kind of musical instrument in my hand, usually one of the drums or traditional Yezidi instruments. My family was a very poor family, we all had to work on my uncle’s farm, do sheep work, in order to survive. We had this combination of us all being artists yet having to work very hard to overcome the difficulties of those days. We have all known what it is to sweat in order to be able to both feed and educate ourselves. Shariya village is part of a "complex" of eight Yezidi villages, home to only Yezidis. The original Shariya village is where our Horses of Hope is based. Everyone suffered greatly under the Baath regime which hated Yezidis. Every family has members of their family who were murdered under that regime, simply because of who we were. Our village was bombed three times, our houses totally demolished. We were forced to go underground, to live in the caves in order to protect ourselves from the bombs, the bullets and the fires. Those of us who tried to rebuild our homes would do it block by block. When we had money we would purchase one block. After the third bombing, we gave up, as did the other Yezidi villages. It was then that all the villages united and the present day Shariya began to come into being. These were the days when we used donkeys to plant our grain and wheat. There was neither water nor electricity. It took us four hours just to go and bring water. In my grandparents and parents' generation everything was done together, we planted together, we harvested together, we all helped each other, it was the only way to survive. The government did not support us or fund anything. If we wanted a water supply we had to open up a spring and turn it into a well. There is a wonderful Kurdish word which describes the way we lived. Zabara, it means to give your hand in help without thinking. There were no schools in those days, neither my grandparents nor my parents had any schooling. When my father was a boy there were a few schools in Duhok but in the village no one had money to send their children to Duhok. There is an old man, he is still alive, called Ali Bilbo, he turned his house into an informal school to teach reading and writing. All the progress that you see has come in my life time, the life of the previous generations was simple and basic and lacking everything that we have today.
"In 1997 a music band was founded by one of my family members, Ismail Shex Mirzo who called it "Tipa Sarye" its first formal engagement was to play at the Newoz celebrations. The band consisted of traditional Yezidi dancing and songs and used two traditional Yezidi instruments, the Dahol and the Zurna, the Daf and the flute. There were six men and six women in the band and they went from village to village to perform, all the villagers loved them. When the Baath regime ended in 2003 and our freedom was regained, the group expanded and began to travel throughout Kurdistan, into Iraq. It is an amazing group, it was invited to Mexico. I didn't go! I hope that one day I will be able to travel with them. Right now I have taken a few days off from Springs of Hope to go to Baghdad with them.
"I never knew Khamo, my grandfather, who died when my father was young, and my grandmother raised him and his siblings alone. In 2012 I began to work alongside one of my uncles as a photographer, I worked with him until 2015 when I was accepted as a member of Shariya Art & Folklore group. In Kurdish that’s called "Tipa Sarya ya Honere Mli" In 2017 I realised that music, especially the Daf, is one of my two passions in life, the other is our horses, and began to take my way ahead as a musician seriously. In 2020 I was offered the role of Daf teacher with Springs of Hope, and in 2022 I began to study music formally at the Dasniya Institute in Zaxo.
As a child I had two dreams and two passions. Music and Horses. I remember sitting with Miss Lisa in the Hope Centre office when she was talking about the need for a third hand at the Horses for Hope stables. Often when needing staff she would come to me as my family is one of the oldest and largest and we have good connections. She asked me if I knew someone in the village who had a passion for horses. I told her, "look no further, I am the one." And thus my childhood dream came true. I love our horses, I work on the ranch in the morning and study in Zaxo most afternoons. When I am not studying, I teach Daf in the Hope Centre.
I hope that this has given you a feeling for our village which in fact is eight villages that began slowly to distance themselves from the mountains and built together where we are now."
BASHIQ. ENGISH TEACHER.
“My village is called Gre Pan, which means a small flat hill. It is situated in the district of Faida, about 15 km from Duhok and is one of the group of eight Yezidi villages There are about 100 people who live in the village, they are all very friendly and all help each other. We too grew up on the concept of Zabara. No one ever asked for help, it was there before we asked. My village is agricultural, growing wheat, grain and vegetables. Life is simple here.
There is a primary school in the village, with a small playground for the children to use in the afternoon. We buy all we need from the village market. People here are poor, but they are kind and honest. I love my village very much.
When I was a child my parents told me that Christians founded the village. They called it Sisaban. They also suffered much persecution and left the village to become closer to the mountains for protection. Today there are a few Muslims who live in the village, and we have good and peaceful relations.
Our village is different from the other villages because we are all educated. All our families were extremely poor as our parents sent us to Duhok for schooling. There were years when there was no transport and we walked for hours or if lucky shared a pick up truck with all the neighbours. Everyone in the village is well educated and has at least one University degree.
In the 1980s we left Gre Pan to live in Shariya complex, the same story as all of the villages, our houses were bombed and destroyed by the Baath regime. We slowly rebuilt our life in the Sharya complex but of course our homes still exist and we continue to farm the land.”
Bashiq. English Teacher.
STEVEN, SPORTS COACH
"Old Shariya Village is the most beautiful place in the world. It is a quiet village with sheep, the sound of birds and waterfalls. It is a village full of memories, especially with the older people who still live there and remember so much.
It’s the most beautiful of all the Yezidi villages, not just the villages included in the complex, but in all of Kurdistan. I love going to work in our old home, my father’s home. I take care of the trees, and plant vegetables in season. My father and I sit and talk, he tells me all of the village stories, we laugh and cry together because there were great times with funny stories of the villagers, and then great suffering and loss of life and house.
My father sacrificed so much for us kids, he deserves everything. I don't think that there is another father who has done so much for his family.
I was born in Shariya complex, where we all live now but after work and on the weekend I like to walk the 2 km walk to our old home. All the villagers walk, the older ones don't drive, the kids don't drive, the poor don't drive so it's always fun to walk and meet the neighbours, stop to chat and catch up. Everyone helps each other. My father told me that he does not know what it is to ask for help. The entire village gathers whenever there is the smallest need. We give help with love and willingness.
We have many caves, some are natural and have existed probably for thousands of years. Many Jews used the caves for protection until they had to leave Kurdistan. We also have caves which our grandfathers dug for our protection during the Baath regime, protection against bombs and hiding places against attacks. Some people have transformed the caves today. There is one family who grows mushrooms in a cave, the climate is ideal, they harvest hundreds of kilos. There is an artist who paints in a cave and stores all his materials there because the temperature is perfect. They have taken that which we used to save our lives into something positive and beneficial.
It's a village that despite the years of tragedy is still alive. People come to the village for hiking, to climb the mountains, to sit and make chai. People come and plant trees, the farmers take their sheep up to the mountain… it's just a totally beautiful village.
Our grandfathers always pushed to develop the village, they opened up springs and wells of fresh water which we all share. We have electricity, most of the time. Some of the other villages still don't have even that.
Most families have their archive of photos from the old days, my father has a wonderful archive. It is such a joy to sit with him, to look at the simple life and to hear his memories of a world that was perfect until Saddam Hussein destroyed everything. A kind of paradise that was destroyed but lives in our memory and will never be forgotten.
Oh and we don't have any utility bills or pay taxes which is a great benefit.
I hope from reading this that you love my village a little.
Steven. Sports Coach.