Sinjar, Iraq – “There is no Sinjar without Yazidis; and there are no Yazidis without Sinjar,” says 25-year-old Shreen, referring to her land of origin, the northern Iraqi province in the Nineveh region.
She survived two years and eight months of sex slavery in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS)-occupied Mosul, but during the battle for the city she managed to escape and later went to Syria to rescue her sister, who had also been taken by ISIL.
“But I don’t want to be considered as an ex-slave or just a survivor. I am now an activist for the Yazidi cause and I will not leave Iraq until I have the corpse of my father.”
Shreen’s father was killed by ISIL in August 2014 in what the United Nations described as a genocide of the Yazidi people.
Today she works with the association Yazidi Organization for Documentation, documenting the exhumation process of the mass graves in Kojo, the village that became a symbol of the Yazidi genocide for the mass killings of adult men, and where the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and activist Nadia Murad was abducted in 2014.
Meanwhile, the fate of more than two thousand women who were kidnapped in the same year is still unknown.
But Yazidi women have not surrendered. On the contrary, some have found the strength to go back and live in Sinjar. Shana and Nada both work and volunteer for local and international associations, such as Yazda, in order to continue their search for the bodies of their loved ones and of the missing persons.
The old city of Sinjar stands at the south of Mount Sinjar. On the mountain, people still live in camps for displaced people.
In the city, many people struggle to survive. But some of the Yazidi women of Sinjar have returned, waiting for justice and determined to work to rebuild their community life.
“Part of the genocide is the displacement and division of families” continues Shreen. “The more we are closer, the more we feel we are alive.”