Camping in Kurdistan
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold
of your hand.
I will keep you and make you
to be a covenant
for the people
and a light to the
The rain fell quite gently. Amidst the dust storm that had hung about for days, one would have thought it would have cleansed the air and washed some of the dirt away that had been blown as a fine covering over everything. Instead, the damp earth began to give off a stale odour and the brown dust became dark and splattered on the once white surfaces of the tents.
I had never been in a Refugee Camp before, and upon entering the huge ‘tent-town’ I instantly realised that the images I had watched on news screens did not relay the real story. And it wasn’t that the conditions were so basic, even though they were. No, the real story was that for around the 20,000 people in this camp, this was it. No options to return home. No options to find work and income. No options to end this 2 year long ‘camping-trip’. And this was just one Yezidi camp in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. Within a few hours’ drive of each other there are at least another four.
|Shariya Refugee Camp|
And yet…I still saw hope! I had the honour of accompanying Springs of Hope to this region, an organisation from Jerusalem, as they worked to launch ‘The Hope Factory’, the’ Dare to Dream’ event and a third initiative titled ‘Freed to Focus’. We spent days in Kurdish Government offices, jumping through bureaucratic hoops and drinking copious amounts of chai (dark Ceylon tea with lots of sugar!) getting the permissions needed, but everywhere we went, the Director of Springs, a rather slight Israeli Jewish lady, had an amazing impact as she participated in God’s prophetic mandate through Isaiah to ‘be a light to the nations’. It was not without much prayer, but doors opened, connections were made, chai was drunk, handshakes were given and permissions were signed!
|Between the tents|
Thousands of Yezidi people were displaced in the summer of 2014 when Da’esh (ISIS) attacked their northern Iraq towns and villages, slaughtering many of the men and capturing the women and children to be sold on their slave markets, or for the young boys, to be sent to their radicalisation training camps behind Da’esh lines. The story hit our news headlines as a humanitarian crisis erupted when thousands of Yezidis were trapped on top of Mt Sinjar as they fled and found themselves surrounded. Pictures of children and older people dying from thirst flashed across our news screens and aerial aid was sent in from various nations, alongside military assistance given to get everyone off the mountain and into safer areas of the country. Over 3,500 Yezidi women and children are still held captive deep in Da’esh territory. Two years later and our headlines have moved on. Two years later and the Yezidi people, with nowhere to go, have not.
|Toilets and Showers|
Enter ‘Springs of Hope’, with a vision to see this people group empowered and restored. Through The Hope Factory, Yezidi women from the camp will be taught how to sew and create their traditional garments. Already special white dresses have been made and presented to 50 of the older women and more sewing machines and fabric has been purchased. The aim is to also create other saleable items like bags for example, that can be sold online and create an income and opportunity for industry for the refugees.
|Chai - black and sweet!|
Dare to Dream was a special event where culturally sensitive, designer dresses from Hollywood were gifted to over a dozen of the teenage girls and young women that had since been rescued or escaped out from under Da’esh. Their harrowing stories of torture, abuse, and slavery were not outwardly evident as we received their hospitality sitting on the floor of a UN tent drinking chai, but the traumas run deep. Dare to Dream was an opportunity to help begin the restoration of dignity and honour as a woman, and kilos of donated make-up from around the world was gifted to many of the ladies living at the camp.
|Donations of make-up poured in - thank you!|
The third initiative being launched at this time was Freed to Focus. For the young boys that experienced the inhumane indoctrination of Da’esh, there is also much wounding and much recovery needed. F2F is an opportunity for them to experience and learn the trade of media, photography and film with experienced and award winning media personnel willing to come from various countries around the world, and teach these young minds new skills and talents that will see them ‘freed to focus’ on hope and life and the possibility of a future!
by Karen Gower, Director YPMP
|Beautiful children - the hopeful next generation!|