Yazidi Tailoring for Women


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September 6, 2014
Dohuk, Iraq

A Yazidi tailor has established a sewing workshop for traditional handmade clothes for Yazidi women. In their escape from marauding ISIS fighters, many women tore their clothes. Since the traditional Yazidi dress is not available in shops or the market, the workshop was established to enable women to preserve their cultural identity. The outfit has a special traditional and religious value, representing peace and purity.


SOUNDBITE1: Hadeya, Seamstress (woman, Kurdish)
(00:38 - 02:11) “These are the traditional outfits of Yazidi women. We are sewing them here because they are not available in the market. The design of these clothes is very unique because they have a ring called a “took” and it is a symbol for the Yazidi outfit. We will always wear this type of clothing, especially the elderly who wear white outfits, which represents purity and clarity. This is how we view our religion, as pure. I am very pleased to be doing this job because it helps us maintain our culture. We provide these clothes for free, because the person who launched this project (Ali Ezideen), did it so he can provide this service for people without for anything in return. We, as seamstresses, do not get paid. We are volunteers. We work on approximately 32 pieces per day and we meet with 20-40 women everyday. We are 6-7 volunteers in this project. We established this workshop because most of the clothes of the Yazidi women got torn while they were fleeing Sinjar to escape the ISIS terror, and this outfit is not available in the market.”

SOUNDBITE 2: Vati, Seamstress (woman, Kurdish)
(03:27-08:48) “We are volunteer seamstresses. I am very happy to contribute in this work because it serves the Yazidi religion and its followers. Also it helps maintain our cultural heritage since it represents the purity of our religion, I ask everyone to help us protect our religion.”

SOUNDBITE 3: Fayez, Yazidi volunteer (man, Arabic)
(03:27-08:48) “When they were in the mountain, it was very hard. There were no bathroom, or places to sleep, or even food, so the outfits got ruined because of sleeping on the floor and they were all torn. So Ali Ezdeen thought that Yazidi women must be really tired after this hard trip and their clothes are ruined, so he purchased an amount of fabric that we can turn into Yazidi outfits. Then they will be distributed among the women. I supervise the work of the seamstresses and Ali is responsible for the whole project. Here we have two seamstresses, one designer, and three people to take the measurements and the sizes. We go and take the sizes of the old women in the camps and the people who came from Sinjar and are staying in the unfinished buildings, then tailor these outfits and distribute them.”

Interviewer: What are the ages and categories that you tailor for?
“Only for the elderly, the younger generation can wear any type of clothes, but the old women cannot. It is a tradition, and it is very hard to find.”

Interviewer: What is the significance of these outfits for the Yazidi woman?
“First of all, the color: the old Yazidi women only wear white, it is a tradition that the elderly in the Yazidi religion should wear white. It is a symbol for the religion.”

Interviewer: What is the difference between this outfit and any other outfit you can find in the market?
“The difference is you cannot find these outfits in the market, they have to be tailored upon request and they cannot be found in ay shop. The Yazidis are a minority, and their outfits are not widely produced. They do not come from Europe like every other outfit. They are very rare.”

Interviewer: Is it considered a good thing to wear this kind of outfits?
“Yes to wear this is a good thing, and they do not wear anything but those outfits. It is mentioned in our book that the blue color is forbidden for the elderly.”

Interviewer: But you are wearing blue
“Yes but as I said, it is only forbidden for the elderly.”

Interviewer: How many pieces do you tailor per day?
“About 32-40”

Interviewer: Is it for men and women?
“No only for women.” Interviewer: What do you ask from people?
“I ask for help from anyone who can to help this religion, because it has suffered a lot throughout the years. I wish everyone can do charity work and help other such as Ali Ezdeen. This person donated everything he has for the Yazidi refugees.”

Interviewer: Do you consider this work as a service for your religion?
“Yes of course, we feel like we are helping ourselves by doing this kind of work, it is different from when someone gives you money or a place to stay. We feel like we are helping ourselves by working in this workshop.”

SOUNDBITE 4: Yazidi woman standing in front of the tent with a child (woman, Kurdish)
(10:36-11:13) Interviewer: Why are you wearing white?
“It is our custom and our culture.”

Interviewer: How so?
“It is the culture of the Yazidis”

Interviewer: Do you always wear this outfit?

SOUNDBITE 5: Yazidi woman (woman, Kurdish)
“I am very content with our outfits, it is our cultural heritage, and while we were coming through the mountain, most of our clothes got torn, but still I will always wear the white outfit.”