By The United Nations
A Healing Arts story in collaboration with Yazda, Community Jameel and CULTURUNNERS
In 2014 the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) seized control of Northern Iraq and launched a campaign of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. Their main targets were the Yazidi people, Christians and other ethno-religious communities.
Photography Workshop in Lalish (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Homes, places of worship and cultural heritage sites were desecrated and destroyed.
Photography Workshop in the IDPs Camp in Khanki (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Thousands of Yazidis now live in tented camps inside Iraq, unable to return home due to ongoing security fears.
This photo-story is a response to the ongoing situation
created by eight Yazidi survivors of the Da'esh occupation, all currently living in refugee camps in Iraq.
Yazidi Cultural Archives
Through workshops, field-trips and permanent digital archives, the Yazidi Cultural Archives is a project that builds upon the known psychological benefits of group support, artistic engagement, and cultural validation.
Lalish - A Yazidi Cultural Archive Film (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
“I am Renas...
"From the time I was liberated from Da'esh captivity, I dedicated myself to learning about Yazidi customs and traditions. After Da'esh tried to destroy our religion, I want to tell the world what me and my people went through. We now need your support to take back our rights.”
View over the IDPs Camp in Shariya (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Souvenirs of Lalish (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
When visitors come to Lalish, they often take souvenirs as a reminder of this holy place.
Thread Blessings in Lalish (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
As part of Yazidi tradition, some visitors to Lalish leave their blessed bracelets in the space between rocks in the wall.
“I am Kamira...
"I want to support and advocate for Yazidis so our voices are heard. Da'esh tried to destroy our culture but I will keep protecting and promoting our customs and traditions. In the future, I want to keep taking more photos and learn how to drive a car.”
Zimzim Water Fountain (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Yazidi visitors to Lalish drink ‘ZimZim’ water from the fountain, which is said to have healing properties.
“My name is Suham from Tal Qasab...
"I was a captive of Da'esh for two years and was subjected to the most horrific forms of torture. But I remained strong and now I live with my mother, brother and the rest of my family who were also kidnapped. I like to work and help my family.”
Wishing Tree at Arafat Mount (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Visitors to Lalish make wishes in this place for families who struggle to have children.
“My name is Elham...
"Before being displaced I was a student and dreamed of being a doctor. However, since the genocide, I had to leave everything behind, including my dreams. Life is still very hard for me. I hope to be able to study in the future.”
Olive Oil Reserves in Lalish (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Oil stored in these jars is used in religious ceremonies and rituals that are held in Lalish temple throughout the year.
Sheikh Bakr Tomb (Stadrok) (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
This is the Tomb of Sheikh Bakr in one of the temples in Lalish.
“I am Zina...
I want to talk about the years I spent in captivity and what I went through. When I was captured by Da'esh, I suffered so much psychologically and physically. Now I want to learn about the traditions of my religion and to protect my culture.”
Photography Fieldtrip in Khanki (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Broken eggshells and dried flowers pasted to the wall with mud are traditional ways of celebrating the Yazidi New Year.
“My name is Enas...
I was a captive of Da'esh for years and was subjected to the worst forms of torture and violence. When I was liberated, I remained strong despite everything that happened to me. I took responsibility for my family, which consists of my mother and sister, and I began to attend English and photography courses to develop my abilities."
Portrait of Kojak Salman (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
This is a photograph of a typical Yazidi home featuring a drawing of a man named Kojak Salman, a famous person in Yazidi culture.
“I am Aamira and I was held by Da'esh for three years...
I experienced a lot of suffering. I’m determined to be strong so I can advocate for my community. After I was freed I knew no one could break me. Since returning I’ve taken part in lots of courses to better myself. Da'esh has tried to use our culture against us. They used our religion as a reason for the genocide. We will be stronger when other survivors are freed as well.”
Bozan Village (2021) by YazdaThe United Nations
Bozan, also known as Little Lalish (Lalişa Piçuk), is an ancient village with numerous mausoleums, oratories and sacred stones.
1. View over the Bozan cemetery which serves 12 Yazidi villages in the surrounding area. 2. Yazidi mausoleums in Bozan.
Christopher Bailey: Arts & Health Lead, WHO
"Carl Jung once said, 'Loneliness is not the absence of people. It is the inability to express what matters to you most‘. By putting the cameras in the hands of the Yazidi women themselves, the choice of subject, their framing and point of view, becomes their choice. Not merely an archival project, by framing their own story, they become authors of their community's future as well.”
The Healing Lens is a 'Yazidi Cultural Archive' story created by Saadia Saeed Talal, Renas Elias Hussein, Kamira Mahmood Hussien, Aamira Hussien Ali, Suham Sulaiman Hussien, Elham Dakheel Ali, Enas Qasso and Zina Ibrahim Murad. It is presented by Healing Arts under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and produced by CULTURUNNERS and Community Jameel in collaboration with Yazda, Open Mind Project, Blessed Foundation and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.
An evaluation of the impact of the archives on the psychological wellbeing of participants is being support from Arts + Health @ NYU and the WHO Arts and Health program.
Special thanks to Nobody's Listening.
All images courtesy of the artists and Yazda.