Nine years ago this week the Spirit moved in my soul and will and I began the early steps of the journey toward working in Iraqi Kurdistan with Christian Peacemaker Teams. That afternoon I sat on a hillside in England with 15,000 people at the Greenbelt Christian Arts festival. During the Sunday service we remembered many who have been placed into slavery to meet the evil desires of people who considered themselves superior. We sang a protest song from the days of Apartheid in South Africa. The words of " Senzeni na? are translated "what have we done?;our sin is that we are black?; Our sin is the truth; They are killing us". At that moment I recognized my privilege in having a life where I was able to live in peace and security. In that moment my fear of the unknown was removed. I knew I needed to step out of my comfort and privilege to walk alongside to the best of my ability. .
On August 3, my team mate and I attended the commemoration of one year since the Yezidi genocide in Iraq. Our friend Sheik Shamu, a leader of the Yezidi community that lives in Arbat internally displaced persons camp, invited us to join the gathering at 11 am on that day. We entered the camp, greeting the guards who allowed us to pass.
We immediately saw the hand lettered signs attached to the tents in the area where the Yezidis live. Then we were met by three little girls, all wearing screen printed T-shirts. When Juliane asked if she could take a photo, one lifted a photograph up and held it sideways. The scene was one that little girls should know nothing about, but we knew that they had witnessed things that their little minds will never forget.
Photo: Juliane Assmann
The event was held in the huge brick building that serves as a school during the year. Today it held all sorts of ages of the Yezidi community, as well as visitors from NGOs and politicians. Sheik Shamu noticed us very quickly and assured that we had seats alongside the mayor and other dignitaries. We received the bottles of water offered to everyone gratefully. There was no chance of a breeze entering the building and sweat was pouring in the 45 C heat.
Sheik Shamu was one of the first speakers, presumably setting the stage for what was to follow. The Yezidis speak a different dialect of Kurdish than the one I was learning. I heard many recognizable words, but not enough to follow the speech.
Photo: Juliane Assmann