The holiday season has descended upon our little country. In our peaceful slice of the world. Not so far away, the reality is different. There, members of a minority are raped and beheaded, while the world turns its eyes away. Don’t look away.
The child’s eyes bore into yours. They are full of terror and tears that have been. The scrawny child’s body belonging to the dirty face wears scantily clad clothes. The shoes are gone. The child ends up in a pair of socks standing on the cold mountain bed.
Genocide number 74 came with IS, and their suffering has never been greater.
There are more. A grown woman comes and takes the child by the hand. She looks towards you. A pleading look and a body where hopelessness has taken up residence. There she stands. Behind her you see that more are coming. Thousands. Who wanders from an incomprehensible nightmare. To a new one. Then they all disappear when you turn off your television. This misery somehow disappears with a sensitive push of a button.
It doesn’t do that. This child. This lady. It also concerns you.
Beheadings and mass graves
They belong to a small and vulnerable minority. The Yezidis in northern Iraq. A peaceful indigenous people with fewer and fewer members after 73 previous genocides. They have never had peace. Genocide number 74 came with IS, and their suffering has never been greater.
Beheadings, rapes and unmarked mass graves are just some of what followed in their footsteps. Those who managed to escape went up into the mountains. Behind them, the atrocities continued undisturbed against this unarmed minority. The plateau at the top became the stopping point. Captured by IS who surrounded Mount Sinjar.
The fates of these tens of thousands of people on the mountain. It also concerns you.
A hair’s breadth from sex slavery
Sometimes it’s coincidences that make a big difference. The Jezidi girl at the beginning of her adult life knows a lot about that. She talks in a low voice about her escape from the town of Sinjar after IS arrived. Instead, she could have been raped now. Again, and again. And over again.
She sits in front of a stunned group from Norway. Which bears witness to the suffering her minority is subjected to. Those who are hunted for belonging to one of the world’s oldest religions. We are sent by the Human-Ethical Association via Norwegian People’s Aid. To help fellow human beings in dire need.
In Sinjar, she lived with her disabled mother. To leave her when death came was unthinkable. Deep inside the house they sat and hoped that the men of brutality would not come to their door first. During the night they were visited by one of their Arab neighbours. He offered to save their lives for enough money. They quickly gathered up what they had of value in their poor dwelling and gave it to the man. In the early morning, the pulse was high ahead of the attempt to get out of the destroyed city. The man came with a car, and new outfits for the girl and her mother.
“We had to put on the niqab so that those in the city and at its borders would think we were Muslims and belonged to the man. Otherwise, mother would die and I would become a sex slave,” says the girl.
The man provided Islamic identification cards. If they were stopped, they had to be careful that their faces were not visible. Then the mother would have been killed in front of the daughter. The daughter would have the same future as the other 6,000 Yezidi women who have been sold as sex slaves within IS. For a pack of cigarettes. Rape after rape. Girls up to the age of 6.
They got away. Now she works to save her population. It also concerns you.
Please let us live
The interpreter sits concentrated and translates the stories of IS survivors. Those who have memorial images no human should have possessed. About the fate of family members, friends and acquaintances. Those who have disappeared. Perhaps lying in unmarked mass graves. Or caught in the hands of someone who defiles their bodies and lives in the most horrible way.
It is difficult to translate the words and feelings as correctly as possible. So that those from Norway will be able to understand the incomprehensible. A question is asked of the survivors and the interpreter looks blank. His eyes go blank at first, then wet. It will be a lot. Too much.
Their hope lies in the fact that you and others in the world do not turn their eyes away. That you care.
“There is unused land in Canada and Russia. Land no one else wants. Can we move there? We must live in peace and not cause trouble. Let us live. Please let us live,” he says with desperation in his voice.
The proud interpreter sits exhausted after the personal outburst. He apologizes to the rest of us around the table. We sit with a lump in our throats and tears flowing. His feelings become our reality. A moment. His desperation. It also concerns you.
Hope is your humanity
The majority of Yazidis in Iraq are now either in refugee camps for internally displaced people, stuck between falling shells in Mosul or in the hands of IS. A desperate situation for this minority. Their hope lies in the fact that you and others in the world do not turn their eyes away. That you care.
“You should not bear so heartily, the injustice that does not affect you“, reads a line in a well-known Norwegian poem. The situation of the Yezidis and their future, it also concerns you.
Post in Stavanger Aftenblad on 30 December 2016: In Norwegian here.
Photo credit: Sean Kjetil Nordbo