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The Christian Militia Fighting ISIS i...
Unnamed Road, Bakufa,Iraq
By Nils Metzger
23 Mar 2015

This footage shows fighters from the Assyrian Christian Dwekh Nawsha militia at their forward operating base in Baqufa, Iraq, as well as on the frontline where they operate together with Peshmerga units. Since August, Dwekh Nawsha has guarded the village of Baqufa – especially its church – from looters. They also control the road connecting Mosul, the largest city in the Islamic State, and Dohuk, a large Kurdish city currently giving refuge to more than 100.000 displaced persons, many of them Christians.

This specific section of the frontline is very quiet, with no major fighting for the past six months since neither side has any heavy weapons deployed here. Many refugees criticize the militia’s lack of commitment to recapturing their village in the Niniveh area.

This footage shows an ordinary day with Dwekh Nawsha: watching the enemy on the frontline, waiting at the base camp, patrolling the village of Baqufa, staying awake all night to guard the small checkpoint, preparing breakfast for the day shift, cleaning the base and returning home for their week off.

The footage includes interviews with Rama Baito, the social media manager of Dwekh Nawsha; Sargon Logan, a 25-year old bread vendor from the city of Dohuk who joined Dwekh Nawsha three months ago; General Tareq Suliman, the local Peshmerga commander on the frontline near Dohuk; and his second-in-command, Colonel Kerim, who accompanied the journalist to the frontline.

BACKGROUND:

In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority.

While most fled, some Christians organized themselves into militias to defend their villages. One of them is Dwekh Nawsha (‘The Sacrificers’). Since August 2014, they have trained more than 60 fighters from the Ninaveh region of Iraq and control a small part of the frontline north of Mosul near a village called Baqufa. Dwekh Nawsha is not just a militia of Christians, but one fighting for the interests of the ancient Assyrian communities in Iraq. The Assyrians cherish a culture much older than Christianity, but were also one of the first peoples to convert in the 1st century AD. Over the last few months, the Islamic State has destroyed a number of important excavating sites and historical cities of the Assyrians, a people who used to rule over large parts of the Middle East 3.000 years ago.

The interviews were conducted in English and Kurdish.

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Interview: US Citizen Provides Iraqi ...
Dohuk, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
22 Mar 2015

In February 2015, Judd Carroll from Tyler, Texas decided to start a fundraising campaign to help Christian refugee children in northern Iraq and then deliver the material aid himself. Not only did the fundraising effort fail but, despite harsh criticism from family and friends, he spent his own money to fly to Iraq to bring both baby food and military equipment to local Christian militias. In this 30min interview, he explains his motivation and why he wants to join these Christian militias fighting the Islamic State.

The interview was filmed at the headquarters of the Christian Assyrian militia Dwekh Nawsha (‘The Sacrificers’).

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Syrian Kurdish Refugees Find a Home i...
Akre
By Mat Wolf
20 Mar 2015

March 20, 2015
Akre, Iraqi Kurdistan 


Housed inside a former detention facility, Syrian Kurds who fled fighting in their homeland are doing their best to restore normalcy in their lives in the mountainous Iraqi Kurdish city of Akre in the Dohuk government.
 
At the Akre settlement for Syrian Kurds—housed inside a former prison and Baathist military base—parents look on as their children run around the facility’s courtyard setting off fireworks. Youngsters are also working on a mural covering part of the two-story, yellow brick facility’s walls and stairwells in an art project sponsored by the Rise Foundation NGO and local teachers. Cartoon characters, animals and hearts are popular themes in the artwork.
 
“I like the trees, flowers, woods—the natural views,” says English teacher and fellow refugee Nazim Qamr, 29. He adds he’d prefer the children avoid cartoon characters, but it’s not up to him.
 
“We ask the children and listen to their opinions about what they like and don’t like,” Qamr says. 
 
As rays of sun occasionally poke through the clouds on an otherwise gloomy March 20, Iraqi Kurdistan’s mountains and postcard beauty makes it easy to forget the Akre settlement is a refugee camp. Housing just under 1,500 people—many of them small children—its residents are afforded small apartments converted from prison cells, and many admit they’re superior to the UN tents and ad-hoc structures that define many of the region’s refugee camps.
 
“They gave each family a room,” says 24-year-old English teacher Kawther Ahmed, originally from Damascus. She came to Akre with her family a year and a half ago, and said camp administrators from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government have done their best to ensure the Syrian Kurds feel welcome. “Compared to the tents, this building is better than the tents,” she says.
 
Because the Syrians at Akre have been taken in by their fellow Kurds, they’re also allowed more privileges than the local government typically allows non-Kurdish refugees. Residents of the Akre settlement are allowed to freely come and go from the camp once they’ve filed residency paperwork, and can seek work in the local community. But despite some advantages given to Kurdish refugees in Kurdish territory, many of Akre’s Syrians still bear the scars of their homeland’s complex civil war, and have faced difficulties in adjusting to life in Iraq.
 
Adnan Mahmoud, 35, says he is originally a mechanic from Qamishli who fled the forces of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and came to Iraq a year and half ago. Since that time he’s developed a cataract in his left eye, and he says he’s gone partially blind. “It’s a simple surgery, but they don’t have doctors here to do it, and I’ve filed paperwork to go to a hospital that can, but nothing’s working,” he says.

He adds his young daughter Haifa has suffered a knee injury, and has had an X-ray done, but she also needs surgery and the refugees at Akre can’t find basic medical care.
 
Mahmoud’s friend and neighbor Samir Mohamed Saleh, 31, is a former restaurant worker who lived in both Syria and Lebanon before fleeing to Iraq a year and a half ago. He adds that in addition to insufficient medical care, work opportunities for Syrian Kurds in Iraq are limited and low paying.
 
They both say they’d like to be able to find real, serious work like they had in Syria. Like other men in the camp, they’ve found work packing and loading gravel, but they say the salary is poor and the work exhausting, sometimes for as little as $1.30 a day.
 
“We need real work, we need self-respect,” Samir says.
 
He adds however he thinks the Iraqi Kurds have been gracious, and that at least in Akre he has a roof over his head and food to eat.
 
“It’s good here, we have bread, electricity, food and water,” he says. “The Kurds in Iraq have helped us a lot, I mean we’re the same nation, but we still need more.” 

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Interview: Yousif Thomas Mirkis, Chal...
Sulaimaniya, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
20 Mar 2015

Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkul is one of the most important clergymen in the Chaldean Church and one of the most influential representatives of the Christian community in all of Iraq. The diocese of Kirkuk has always been a centerpiece of Iraqi Christendom, its former Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako having become the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in 2013. This interview with Bishop Mirkis was conducted on 19 March 2015 in Sulaimaniya, Iraq.

The main topics discussed are the current refugee crisis and the future role of Christians in Iraq.

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Interview: Emanuel Youkhana, Head of ...
Erbil, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
18 Mar 2015

This footage is an extended interview with Archimandrit Emanuel Youkhana, priest of the Assyrian Church of the East and head of the most important Christian relief organization in Iraq, CAPNI. Here he talks extensively about why, even after the Islamic State has collapsed, he thinks Iraqi Christendom is about to die out, and why he does not expect things to get much better.

The interview was conducted in English.

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Christian Refugees in Erbil, Iraq 1080p
Erbil, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
18 Mar 2015

Jens Petzold is a Swiss monk who heads a monastery in Erbil, Iraq for Iraqi-christian refugees who fled ISIS attacks on their towns last year. A former resident of the famous Deir Mar Musa monastery in Syria, Petzold first came Iraq from Syria in 2011 in order to rebuild the abandoned monastery of Deir Maryam al-Adha. After the Islamic State started to attack Christian villages in Iraq this past summer, he became the sole caretaker of dozens of displaced families.

Petzold is a charismatic and unorthodox church congregation leader. This footage tries to show how a single person can make a big difference to many refugees as well as show how refugees from the Christian community try to get on with their daily lives, somehow trying to avoid leaving their homeland for good.

Background:

In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority. Most of its 50,000 residents fled within a couple of hours on the 6th of August and left most of their belongings behind. Right now more than 100,000 of the already shrinking population of Iraqi Christian community have become internally displaced or fled to other countries. While most of the IDPs have found refuge in Ankawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil and two large refugee camps near the city of Dohuk, a small monastery in Sulaimaniya opened its doors for more than 200 refugees who have now been living in this very crowded place for more than half a year. The monastery with its church and one building houses 80 people, nearby apartments another 100+ people. Almost 70 of them are children.

The author visited Sulaimaniya in March 2015. The entire footage was shot during that time. It includes interviews with Jens Petzold, several of the refugees, shows daily life in the monastery as well as a mass. I accompanied Jens Petzold during trips to the local market, to a Christian graveyard and to another local church community where they are raising funds to build new housing facilities.

The following rough cut is in chronological order as it was shot.

The interviews were conducted in English and Arabic.

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ISIS Beheaded Her Father
Dohuk
By rsoufi
16 Feb 2015

The family of a kidnapped Kurdish soldier found out about of his death through a video of his beheading, released by ISIS on January 26. Houkan Surji was captured by the jihadist group after he was wounded in battle on August 6, 2014. Over the six months of his imprisonment his family had absolutely no contact with him and only found out about his death via an online video.

The Transterra Media contributor visited the family home in the village of Berdsur, east of Dohuk and found that they were in the process of moving house. Donors from their community came together and bought the family a new home elsewhere in Dohuk, as their old house held too many painful memories.

This public video released by ISIS is an edited version of the beheading:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWWK0lfd8wU

Transcript:

The family of a kidnapped Kurdish soldier found out about of his death through a video of his beheading, released by ISIS on January 26. Houkan Surji was captured by the jihadist group after he was wounded in battle on August 6, 2014. Over the six months of his imprisonment his family had absolutely no contact with him and only found out about his death via an online video.
The Transterra Media contributor visited the family home in the village of Berdsur, east of Dohuk and found that they were in the process of moving house. Donors from their community came together and bought the family a new home elsewhere in Dohuk, as their old house held too many painful memories.

SOUNDBITE (Woman, Kurdish) Avin Hojam, daughter of Kurdish fighter decapitated by ISIS
00:07 - 05:06
How did you father treat his family?
He treated us very well.
How?
He treated us well and was jovial. He treated all his relatives and friends with innocence and a spirit full of love and appreciation.
When he headed to fulfill his military duties, did you not stop him from going to the battlefield?
No, we did not, because he was defending the honor, dignity and land of Kurdistan. My father was willing to defend the land of Kurdistan for the sake of honor and dignity.
There are other people who were killed by ISIS. What do you think of this, given that ISIS claim to be Muslims?
They are not Muslims. Had they been Muslims, they would not have treated Muslims like this. Did your father communicate with you while he was on the frontline fighting against ISIS? Yes, he spoke with us all the time.
How did you find out that he was detained by ISIS?
We knew that he was with a group of people, some of whom were killed while the others were injured. My father was among the injured. He was shot in the leg and taken prisoner by ISIS. They took him on August 6, 2014 and on January 26, 2015, he was martyred by ISIS.
When your father was on the front, what did he talk to you about?
He spoke about honor, dignity, and his willingness to die to defend the land of Kurdistan.
When he was at home, did he use to talk about the frontline as well?
Yes, he spoke with us a lot about that.
What do you think about ISIS practices, especially with Yezidi women?
These acts are unfair, whether they are committed against Muslims or others.
What do think should be done to correct this situation?
I call on all people to defend Kurdistan and protect their honor and dignity. I even call on civilians to head to the frontlines.
How many members are there in your family?
We are six boys and five girls.
Who supports your family at the moment?
All of our relatives, as well as benefactors, offer us help.
Do you need anything?
Our situation is good at the moment. The government and benefactors have offered us a lot of aid.
Do you feel that your family lacks anything after your father died?
Yes.
Can you talk about the void that your father’s [death] has left in your life?
It had a great impact on us. We had not seen him for six months, during which he was detained. We were always avidly waiting to know what he had in his heart. We wanted him to tell what he was thinking. We are very touched and realize quite well the void he has left in our life.
Have you received his body?
No. We were longing to see him and we had not received any call from him for six months.
While he was detained, were you not able to communicate with him?
No. I swear to God, we did not receive any news of him from August 6 to January 26, 2015.
What would you like to say to the Islamic State group?
They are not Muslims. Had they been Muslims, they would not have acted as such.
What would you like to say to the international community?
I pray that my father’s blood does not go in vain, and that work is done to give us his body. I pray that these countries are not allowed to exist in any country.

SOUNDBITE (Kurdish, Man) Issa, the cousin of the Kurdish fighter Hojam, decapitated by ISIS
00:03 - 03:20
How did you find out about Hojam’s killing?
I knew through Facebook.
Did you see the video of his execution?
What did you see and how did you feel?
I was moved a lot.
How?
I was very moved because he was killed in an unusual way.
What did you feel that moment?
I swear to God that I wished to have revenge against them and exterminate them.
How can you describe this [act]?
This is an inhumane act.
Why?
It is an inhumane act and even infidels do not do what these monsters have done.
What do you think should be done?
We call on foreign countries, such as the international coalition, the United States, Britain, Germany and France to strike and exterminate them.
Does this mean that this is not a personal issue?
No, it is not a personal issue. Even though the person who killed Hojam was Kurdish, he belonged to ISIS.
Do you mean that this danger affect everybody.
Yes, this is a danger that affects everybody – Arab countries, foreign countries and everybody else.
Do you think that Hojam’s killing has caused a void in your family?
No, no. God willing, there will not be any void.
Are you part of the Peshmerga?
We are all part of the Peshemerga. Those who were not part of the Peshmerga are now part of it.
In which area do you perform your duties with the Peshmerga?
In Zumar, which is near Tal Afar.
Was Hojam in Zumar?
No, he was in Oweiza.
Where was he taken prisoner?
In the Shallallat area.
After that, what did you hear about him?
No… We know that he was alive, but we did not know any information about him until he was killed.
Did you not try to have him released with the mediation of certain people or Arab tribes?
We tried a lot, with all our means, but it was in vain. They are not part of a government or a state and nobody can deal with them.
How do you think this organization should be dealt with? What do you think about its future?
By God, in the future they shall fail. They have no future. God willing, they will be destroyed.
What about the future of these children?
They are not guilty of anything; they have been betrayed.
What would you like to say to the world?
We say that the countries of the coalition, the Gulf and all the other countries should stand against these people.

لقاء مع أفين هوجام أبنة المقاتل هوجام الذي ذبحته داعش :

السؤال (00:07) كيف كان تعامل والدك مع العائلة؟ (00:09) الجواب (00:10) والدي كان جيدا جدا في تعامله معنا (00:11) السؤال (00:12) كيف (00:13)؟ الجواب(00:15) كان جيدا في تعامله معنا وكان مرحاً معنا وكان يتعامل مع الجميع من أهله وأصدقائه ببراءة وروح مليئة بالحب والتقدير (00:33) السؤال (00:34) عندما توجه إلى واجبه العسكري في المعركة ألم تمنعوه عن الذهاب إلى جبهة القتال؟ (00:40) الجواب (00:41) لا .. لا لم نقله له ذلك لأنه كان يدافع عن شرف وكرامة كردستان ويحمي أرضها.. كان والدي مستعدا للدفاع عن كردستان من أجل الشرف والكرامة (00:56) السؤال (01:00) هناك ناس آخرون أيضا قتلتهم داعش كيف ترون هذا الشيء بينما يدعي أعضاء التنظيم أنهم مسلمون؟ (01:10) الجواب (00:11) هؤلاء ليسوا مسلمين، وإن كانوا مسلمين فيجب ألا يعاملون المسلمين بهذا الشكل. (00:15) السؤال (01:17) عندما كان والدك في جبهة القتال ضد داعش هل كان يتواصل معكم؟ (01:23) الجواب (01:24) نعم كان يتواصل معنا بإستمرار(00:27) السؤال(01:28) كيف عرفتم بأسره من قبل داعش؟ (01:319) الجواب (00:31) نعم علمنا أنه كان مع عدد من الأشخاص بعضهم قتلوا والبعض الآخر أصيب بجروح وكان والدي من بين الجرحى وأصيب رصاص برجله عندما أعتقله مسلحو داعش وأخذوه في يوم (6 من شهر آب 2014). تم أسره. وفي يوم (26 كانون الثاني 2015) استشهد على أيدي داعش (01:53) السؤال (01:55) عندما كان والدكم في الجبهة وكنتم تتواصلون معه عن ماذا كان يتحدث معكم؟ (02:00) الجواب (02:01) يتحدث عن الشرف والكرامة والإستعداد بالتضحية من اجل حماية أرض كردستان لحد الموت (02:10) السؤال (02:11) وعندما كان في البيت هل كان يتحدث عن جبهات القتال أيضاً (02:24) الجواب (02:25) نعم كان يتحدث معنا كثيرا عن ذلك (02:27) السؤال (02:29) كيف ترين ممارسات داعش إتجاه هذه الأعمال خصوصا تجاه النساء الإيزيديات أو غيرهن (02:42) الجوال(02:43) هذه الأعمال غير عادلة، لا مع المسلمين ولا مع غيرهم (02:45) السؤال (02:46) كيف ترين السبيل إلى معالجة هذه الأوضاع؟(00:49) الجواب (02:49) أدعو جميع الناس إلى الدفاع عن كردستان وحماية شرفهم وكرامتهم، وادعو حتى المدنيين للتوجه إلى جبهات القتال (03:00) السؤال (03:01) كم يبلغ عدد أعضاء أسرتكم؟ (03:05) الجواب (03:06) نحن 6 أولاد و5 أخوات (03:08) السؤال (03:09) من يعيل أسرتكم حالياً؟ (03:10) الجواب (03:11) الجميع من أقاربنا والناس الخيريين يقدمون لنا المساعدة (03:16) السؤال (03:18) هل تحتاجون حاليا إلى أي شيء؟(03:22) الجواب (03:24) وضعنا جيد حاليا الحكومة والأشخاص الخيريين قدموا لنا المساعدة كثيرا (03:27) السؤال (03:28) بعد مقتل والدك هل تشعرون أن شيء ما نقص من عائلتك(03:42) الجواب (03:43) نعم (03:44) السؤال (03:44) هل بإمكانك التحدث عن الفراغ الذي تركه والدك في حياتكم (03:55) الجواب (03:56) كانه له تأثير كبير علينا .. لم نره بقي ستة أشهر معتقلا في السجن وكنا دائما تواقين لمعرفة ماكان في قلبه ليقول لنا قبل رحيله. نحن متأثرون جدا وندرك جيدا الفراغ الذي تركه في حياتنا (04:14) السؤال (04:15) هل استلمتم جثته؟(04:15) الجواب(04:16) لا .. نحن كنا مشتاقون لرؤيته ولم نتلق أي اغتصال منه منذ ستة أشهر (04:22) السؤال (04:24) عندما كان أسيرا ألم تستطيعوا الاتصال به؟ (04:27) الجواب (04:28) لا لا والله منذ يوم 6 آب وإلى 26 كانون الثاني 2015 لم نتلق أي خبر عنه(04:34) السؤال (04:37) ماذا تريدين أن تقولي لتنظيم الدولة الإسلامية؟ (04:44) الجواب (04:45) أنهم ليسوا مسلمين وإذا كانوا مسلمون كيف يتعاملون بهذا الشكل (04:49) السؤال (04:50) ماذا تريدين أن تقولي للمجتمع الدولي؟(04:54) الجواب (04:54) أدعو أن لا يدع دم والدي يذهب هدرا والعمل على تسليمنا جثته وأن لايسمح بوجود هؤلاء الوحوش في أية دولة(05:06)

2 مقابلة مع (عيسى ) أبن عم المقاتل هوجام الذي ذبح من قبل داعش

السؤال (00:03) كيف عرفت بمقتل هوجام (00:06) الجواب (00:07) عرفت بواسطة الفيسبوك (00:11) السؤال (00:13) هل رأيت المشهد عن كيفية قتله(00:13) الجواب (00:14) نعم (00:14) السؤال (00:15) ماذا رأيت و بماذا شعرت؟(00:16) الجواب (00:17) والله تأثرت كثيرا(00:18) السؤال (00:18) كيف (00:18) الجواب (00:19) والله تأثرت كثيرا لأنه قتل بشكل غريب (00:24) السؤال (00:25) يعني ماذا كان شعورك في تلك اللحظة؟(00:28) الجواب (00:29) والله كنت أتنمى الإنتقام منهم وإبادتهم (00:34) السؤال (00:35) كيف يمكنه وصفه؟(00:36) الجواب (00:38) هذا عمل غير إنساني (00:39) السؤال (00:40) كيف؟ (00:41) الجواب (00:41) عمل لا إنساني وحتى الكفار لايمارسون العمل هؤلاء وحوش (00:47) السؤال (00:48) برأيك مالذي يجب فعله؟ (00:49) الجواب (00:50) نحن نطالب الدول الأجنبية مثل دول التحالف و أمريكا وبريطانيا وألمانيا وفرنسا بضربهم وإبادتهم (00:59) السؤال (01:00) هذه ليست قضية شخصية؟(01:01) الجواب (01:01) لا ليست قضية شخصية، صحيح أن الذي قتل هوجام كان كرديا لكنه ينتمي لداعش (01:07) السؤال (01:08) تقصد أن هذا الخطر يطال الجميع؟ (01:09) الجواب(01:10) نعم هذا خطر على جميع الناس وحتى الدول الأجنبية والعربية وعلى الجميع(01:17) السؤال (01:22) هل ترى أن مقتل هوجام أحدث فراغا في عائلتكم؟ (01:25) الجواب (01:26) لا لا إنشاء الله لن يحدث أي فراغ (01:31) السؤال (01:32) هل أنتم أعضاء في البيشمركة؟ (01:32) الجواب(01:33) نعم نحن جميعا بيشمركة والذي لم يكن ينتمي للبيشمركة أصبح ضمن البيشمركة(01:39) السؤال (01:45) في أي منطقة تؤدي واجبك في قوات البيشمركة؟ (01:46) الجواب (01:46) في منطقة زمار القريبة من تلعفر(01:49) السؤال (01:50) وهل كان هوجام في منطقة زمار؟(01:50) الجواب (01:51) لا كان في منطقة بعويزة (01:52) السؤال (01:52) وأين أعتقل؟ (01:54) الجواب (01:54) في منطقة الشلالات (01:57) السؤال(01:58) وبعدها ماذا كانت أخباره؟ (01:59) الجواب (02:00) لا .. كنا نعرف أنه حي لكننا لم نعرف أية معلومات عنه لحين قتله (02:10) السؤال (02:11) ألم تحاولوا إطلاق سراحه عبر تدخل أو بواسطة بعض الأشخاص أو روؤساء العشائرالعربية؟ (02:18) الجواب(02:19) والله حاولنا كثيرا وبكل إمكانياتنا لكن دون جدوى هؤلاء ليسوا حكومة ولادولة ولا أحد يستطيع التعامل معهم (02:35) السؤال (02:36) برأيك كيف يكون التعامل مع هذا التنظيم وماهو مستقبله؟ (02:45) الجواب (02:46) والله هؤلاء مستقبلهم فاشل ولا مستقبل لهم إنشاء الله وسيدمرون (02:53) السؤال (02:54) وهؤلاء الأطفال كيف سيكون (مستقبلهم)؟ (02:55) الجواب (02:56) لا ذنب لهم وهم تعرضوا للغدر(03:01) السؤال (03:03) أنتم ماذا تريدون أن قوله للعالم (03:11) الجواب (03:12) نقول لهم قوموا بوجه هؤلاء يا دول التحالف ودول الخليج العربي وكلهم (03:20)

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Christmas for Refugees in Iraq
Dohuk
By rsoufi
22 Dec 2014

December 22, 2014
Dohuk, Iraq

Iraqi Christian refugees put up a huge Christmas tree outside of the Chaldean Cultural Centre in Dohuk. The tree is the biggest in the region and is made of astro-turf wrapped around a metal frame, materials supplied by Afram, an engineer and owner of the centre, which is now housing 87 Christian refugee families.

Inside the centre, Salma is putting up Christmas decorations. She and her husband fled Tel Isqof, in northern Iraq, to escape ISIS and now live with other refugees in Dohuk. Their sons both fled the country.

Farouk and George, a former employee at Basra airport and a former employee at the oil plant in Kirkuk, respectively, wish to leave Iraq for a more stable life.

Transcription:

Farouk, Christian refugee, (Man, Arabic):

(00:36-00:58) Farouk: "This is a Christmas tree for the Chaldean Cultural Centre. All the people here participated in the making of it."

Interviewer: How did you make it?

Farouk: "We cover it with a carpet and then we decorate it with Christmas lights and Christmas decorations."

(01:03-01:47) Farouk: "This is the work of Mr. Afram. He allowed us to reside here, we were 87 families."

Interviewer: Is this the only tree that you are making?

Farouk: "No, we have another tree inside and a grotto."

Interviewer: What do you hope for this Christmas?

Farouk: "We hope for peace, and to leave this country, because nobody is giving us our rights."

Interviewer: Why are you making this tree?

Farouk: "It is a holiday, we have to make it."

George, Christian refugee, (Man, Arabic):

(01:59-02:15) George: "Even if our situation is hard, it will become easier, nothing stays the same. Life is a chance, to see the good and to see the bad. and hopefully God will fix things, and make it better for us. We are refugees, and we hope our situation will improve."

(02:21-02:31) George: "We build the christmas tree every year. No matter what happens, we build it every year."

Interviewer: The fact that you are refugees did not affect you negatively?

George: "No, nothing can affect us."

(02:38-02:52) George: "We hope to return to Kirkuk, to work and continue to live our lives. We do not care about ISIS or anyone."

Salma, Christian refugee (Woman, Arabic):

(04:02-04:16) Salma: "I am decorating the tree. The Christmas tree."

Interviewer: Why are you decorating it?

Salma: "Because it is a religious holiday that we celebrate every year and decorate the tree."

(04:24-05:22) Salma: "I remember when we used to be in our village, and celebrate this holiday with the family, friends, and relatives."

Interviewer: What did you used to do at Christmas time back when you were in your village?

Salma: "We used to celebrate, prepare food and sweets for the holiday when all the family gathers."

Interviewer: What is your current situation here?

Salma: "We are living in a tragedy. It is not nice to live here for any of the people in this building. But thanks to Mr. Afram, who allowed us to stay here, we are so much better than others."

(05:27-05:42) Salma: "If they cannot find a solution they should allow mass immigration. I am here alone with my husband. All of my children are out of the country, Why should my husband and I stay here?"

(05:47-06:37) Salma: Are we Christian or citizens of this country? We ask God to fix this situation."

Interviewer: Is it necessary to build the tree?

Salma: "Yes absolutely, the tree should be placed and decorated at the beginning of December, to start preparing for the holiday. This tree is a blessing from God, maybe it will bless us so the situation can be fixed and we can return to our homes. Many people do not want to immigrate. This is our country and it is very important to us, when we think of what happened to our country we feel sad, but what can we do?"

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Yazidi Children Die in Accidental Ten...
Dohuk
By rsoufi
20 Oct 2014

October 21, 2014
Dohuk, Iraq

Yazidi refugee Saido was able to save his family from certain death at the hands of ISIS by fleeing Sinjar and taking them to Khaneq refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan. However it was here in supposed safety that tragedy struck. When Saido and his wife left his brother’s tent, where they had been spending the evening, they saw their own tent on fire. By the time they got close enough there was nothing they could do but watch as their children burned to death. His three children Sima, Saman, Sebar, aged 4, 7, and 2 respectively, perished in the accidental tent fire caused by a burning candle. The bereaved father is left with just two children, one of whom is partially paralyzed and suffers from epilepsy.

Transcription:

Zahra, mother (Woman, Kurdish):

(00:56) "Sima was as old as this one [she points at a child] and Saman was as old as this one. This child is 10 months older than Sebar. I wish I died instead of them." (01:20)

Seido Shenkali, father (Man, Arabic):

(02:45) Our children were sleeping here [the same position in the other tent] with my mother and father sitting next to them. Then my wife suggested that we all go to my neighbor's tent, so we went and we left them sleeping in the tent right in front of where we were. After a while, my wife told me that we should return to the tent because it was windy and raining and the children were sleeping. So I left my neighbor's tent and walked out to find the children's tent on fire and I started screaming. I had three children, Saman, Sima, and Sebar, when we went to save them they were dead." (03:59)

(04:04) "I ask for any person who is able to help me, to do so. I do not have anything anymore. My children died, all I have left is this child who is sick and epileptic. I ask for all the officials to see my situation. I only have this boy and this girl. The boy is sick, his medications are very expensive, and i cannot get them from any governmental institution." (04:42)

(04:46) "I tried to save them from ISIS, it is all because of them. I tried to save them and brought them here, but they burned to death." (04:42)

Khedr Shenkali, uncle, (Man, Arabic):

(05:21) "There was a lit candle, and their parents were in the other tent, the tent burnt and they died." (05:38)

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Kurdish Blacksmith Helps to Armor Pes...
Dohuk
By mchreyteh
13 Oct 2014

Text by Youssef Zbib

Shehbaz Sindi, a Kurdish blacksmith from the Iraqi city of Dohuk, is proud to present his latest invention. It is a truck hidden under roughly wielded metal sheets that, from the first sight, evokes imagery of tanks that date from the First World War.

This is the first prototype, and having worked on it for two months, Sindi will start building the second one after he finalizes it.

“I am in the final stage now,” said Sindi, dressed in the Kurdish traditional Shalvar made of combat-green fabric. “I have to work on the front side now. We need to make the armor 10 centimeters thick in order to block the bullets.”

Sindi hopes that this yellow behemoth on wheels will help Kurdish fighters put an end to ISIS’ rapid advance in predominantly Kurdish areas.

In recent battles, the extremist militant group has proved to be better armed than Kurdish groups it has fought in Syria and Iraq, after it took over US-made weapons and armored vehicles from Iraqi government forces in June.

After ISIS expanded its control on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian borders and took over Iraq’s second city Mosul, US airplanes targeted ISIS positions and forces in Iraq. The US has also waged a similar a campaign against the group in Syria in September with the participation of allied countries.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Sindi said that the armored vehicle was needed facing the humanitarian distress that Kurds have suffered in recent events.

“We thought of this project after we saw what was happening and how people were fleeing from Sinjar,” said Sindi. “We needed to build something to defend the people and ourselves. We thought of this project out of need.”

In August, thousands of Kurds from the Yezidi religious minority fled their villages in the Shingal area and took refuge on the holy mount of Sinjar as ISIS fighters advanced. Yezidi refugees were stranded there with little food and water supplies for days before US airstrikes broke the siege that ISIS imposed. They were later evacuated into predominantly Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria.

The Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria’s north is currently living a similar crisis. More than a hundred thousand people are believed to have left the city and crossed the border into Turkey as ISIS closed in on the city. Airstrikes conducted by the international coalition seem to have slowed ISIS’ advance but are yet to put an end to it.

Refugees in the Suruc camp on the Turkish side of the border gave harrowing testimonies about the atrocities that ISIS committed in Kobani. According to a report published in the British newspaper The Daily Mail, ISIS militants committed beheadings and mutilation on a very large scale.

But despite this grim reality, Sindi is hopeful that his military invention will push ISIS fighters out of the predominantly Kurdish areas in Iraq and Syria.

“With the help of God, we will use this tank to fight the people who dared to cross the border into Kurdistan,” he said. “I am proud to be the first Kurdish man to ever build a tank. My area and all of Kurdistan is very proud of this invention.”

The armored vehicle, which Sindi calls a “tank,” can carry six fighters, three seated on each side. It can also be equipped with a Russian-made DShK large-caliber machine gun, widely known as Dushka.

Kurdish fighters have not used the makeshift armored vehicle yet. It still has to prove its efficiency in the battlefield, even though Sindi has a lot of faith in his work.

“Concerning mobility… we have tested it and drove it to the highway. It works perfectly,” Sindi said. “Concerning resistance, as you can see here, we have three layers of iron, so when the bullet hits the exterior layer it will not affect the second layer.”

In addition to pushing ISIS fighters out of Kurdish areas, Sindi wants to use his invention to show the world what Kurds can achieve.

“We want to make the country of Kurdistan proud by showing that Kurdish people here can manufacture [weapons],” he said. “And for the people who do not like Kurdistan or Kurdish people, they need to understand that Kurdish people are smart… and are able to build any object they want.”

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Yazidi Tailoring for Women
Dohuk
By rsoufi
09 Sep 2014

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.

Transcription:

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?
“Yes”

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.”

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Yazidis Smuggle Themselves Into Turkey
Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan
By rsoufi
31 Aug 2014

August 31, 2014
Zakho, Iraq

Thousands of Yazidi refugees who where displaced from their homes in Sinjar, are seeking a new life outside of Iraq. The minority, who ISIS branded as "devil worshipers", fled their homes in Sinjar to apparent safety in Kurdish controlled Dohuk, where they lived in makeshift refugee camps. However, having lost any hope of ever returning to their homes, they chose instead to leave Iraq and look for new opportunities in a European country.
The video shows Yazidi people traveling on foot through the mountains on the Iraqi Kurdistan-Turkish border, as they try to enter Turkey unofficially.

Interviews:

Amin Mirza, Yazidi refugee (man, Arabic):
"I am going to Turkey."

Interviewer: Why did you decide to go to Turkey?
"We are going to Turkey looking for peace, safety and stability."

Interviewer: What happened to you in Sinjar? Can you tell me the story?
"What happened to us in Sinjar didn't happen to anyone else. It was a genocide, we were left with no money or clothes. Two of my nieces were captured by ISIS. My brother, his wife and their two children were also taken by ISIS. Where shall I go? I have to find somewhere safe."

Interviewer: Do you think Turkey is safe and do you think it's possible to settle in Turkey?
"Now it's safer in Turkey, thousands of people from my city are already there and are doing well in Turkey."

Interviewer: Did they all go this way [to Turkey]?
"Yes they all passed through the mountains this way with the help of the PKK."

Interviewer: How long have you been walking for to get to Turkey?
"I don't care if it takes me 2 or 3 days to get there, I will sacrifice myself to get my children to a safer place."

Ginar, Yazidi refugee (woman, Arabic):
"They captured our relatives, but just before they could capture us we ran away. One hour before they took over the town, we knew that the Peshmerga had retreated so we left."

Interviewer: Do you know anyone who was captured by ISIS?
"Yes, my cousin and my brother in law, his wife and children were all taken by ISIS and we know nothing about where they are. We came here to cross to Turkey but we were told that the border is closed and so we are waiting for it to be opened."

Interviewer: How long do you think you can stay here in the mountain?
"We really don't know. Yesterday the children were freezing, we have no food, nothing, we just came as we are. If we have to stay here for two or three more days, I don't think the children will survive.. We adults can stay alive but I doubt the children can."

Frame 0004
Kurdish Females Train To Fight ISIS
Dohuk
By rsoufi
26 Aug 2014

August 25, 2014
Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan

Kurdish females train to use weapons in a training camp established by Peshmerga officers in Dhuk, northern Iraq.
The female trainees have volunteered to join the Peshmerga fighters in their war against ISIS.

Interviews:

  • Vian pendroy, Supervisor of the female volunteers training camp (Kurdish):

“After we sensed the danger of ISIS reaching our area, we considered the importance of having military training courses volunteer women. We started the course with thirty volunteer women, the course lasts for ten days, three hours per day. Volunteers receive training in military discipline, national awareness, field training for weapon using, and the lifestyle of the Peshmerga forces.
The purpose of this course is to improve the role of women in supporting the Peshmerga forces, using a weapon to defend herself and her family in emergencies”.
All women taking this course are volunteers who are either lawyers or engineers.
"بعدما شعرنا بوجود خطر داعش على منطقتنا فكرنا بضرورة فتح دورات للتدريب العسكري وإستخدام السلاح لعدد من النساء المتطوعات بدأنا بفتح هذه الدورة التي شاركت فيها 30 إمرأة وأن الدورة ستستمر لمدة 10 أيام وبمعدل ثلاث ساعات يوميا ويتم تدريب المشاركات خلال الدورة على الإنضباط العسكري والتوعية الوطنية وغيرها من المواضيع أيضا فضلا عن التدريب الميداني على رمي السلاح في جبهات القوات والتعلم على أسلوب حياة قوات البيشمركة هناك وتهدف إقامة هذه الدورة لقيام المرأة بدورها في دعم قوات البيشمركة و حمل السلاح للدفاع عن نفسها وأسرتها في الحالات الطارئة السناء المشاركات في هذه الدورة جميعهن متطوعات بينهن يمارسن مهنة المحامات والهندسة "

  • Jihan Kormaki, Volunteer fighter (Arabic): "We are now able to go with the Peshmerga and to fight against terrorism".

"4-5 years ago, the society was conservative, but now, and especially in the past two years, society is becoming more scientific, more interested in literature. The image of women has changed; even our grandparents now think that women are able to take an active role in society, and to help the man in all fields, also in war or a military frontier".