Tragedies like 9/11, the refugee crisis and the recent attacks in London brought people together. However, I found myself wondering why the Yezidi crisis hadn’t generated the same reaction.
Photojournalist Benjamin Eagle, captured the portraits featured in the exhibition at the Lacey Contemporary Gallery. Alongside them were the stories of each individual woman.
The town of Sinjar in Northern Iraq was captured by ISIS in 2014. The aim? To eradicate the Yezidi people in order to purify the area of non Islamic influences.
I had goosebumps reading the stories of what these women endured. One had glass mixed into her food as a way to starve her. Another was kidnapped and had to watch her children beaten to the point of death. With such brutality, it astounded me that there hasn’t been more of an international outcry.
Why have we forgotten about these women? How can we celebrate International Women’s Day and not talk about teenagers being sold and raped?
Strength in the face of adversity
Part of this year’s #BeBoldForChange theme was to campaign against violence towards women. However, following Donald Trump’s tweet to mark International Women’s Day, many women opted to bombard him with abuse. Looking back, that platform could have been used to highlight the discrimination towards the Yezidi’s.
There has been a lot of backlash to Trump since his inauguration – the women’s marches being one of them. However, it seems like unless an injustice isn’t linked to us, there’s no sense of urgency. This inevitably makes women’s groups and individuals, myself included, who advocate for things like parity, hypocrites too.
Yezidi women who are kidnapped, separated from their families and abused may not affect us personally. However, if we can show unity by using the ‘Pray for…’ hashtags when a tragedy occurs, we can do the same for them. These women deserve to have a voice when theirs has been suppressed.
Can you imagine the uproar if the same brutality that Yezidi women experienced were to happen to British or European natives?
International support for Yezidi women
Thankfully the likes of Amal Clooney is fighting for justice and is adamant that ISIS be prosecuted for their crimes against women.
‘There hasn’t been a “single prosecution against ISIS in a court anywhere in the world for the crimes committed against the Yezidis…for any international crimes,”‘ she said.
Ravi Singh, Founder and CEO of Khalsa Aid, an international relief work organization, said: ‘The Yezidi community doesn’t have a prominent voice on the global stage. It is hoped that using this photographic exhibition as a piece of advocacy where we can raise awareness of the challenges faced by these women.’
Khalsa Aid gives the Yezidi women support and a voice, which is how the #IamYezidi campaign was born.
The exhibition highlights what these women have been through in detail – something that the media has failed to do.
One of the women featured, Maha Ravo, 28, said, ‘People don’t believe in fairy tales, but I do because my husband and I had the most beautiful love story – until the day ISIS came to our village and took him away from me. I never heard from him again.’
Just like us, they also experience love and loss. Regardless of what they believe in and how they live, it’s time to focus on our commonalities.
The #IamYezidi exhibition was worth a visit for all – especially those who support women’s rights. We may not come from the same walks of life, but their hopes, grief and dreams will make you realise we are all Yezidi.
You can view photos from this project on Benjamin Eagle’s website.