I am captivated by the teenage girl in this photo, a 15-16 year old Yazidi.
Her family lives in a tent on the edge of Deir Abuna, a Christian village in Iraq near the Turkish and Syrian borders. It’s a tent, but preferable to the big UNHCR tent encampment with 30,000 Yazidi located just down the road. (The Christian mayor of the village made the unusual choice to welcome Yazidis well as Christians, uncommon in a region where people take care of their own.)
She and her family have lived on the edge since they fled their home around Sinjar in advance of Daesh (ISIS). Still, danger is not far. The Daesh front lines are 25 miles from Dohuk, the nearest big city. The family lives three miles from the Syrian border, easily seen from the back side of their tent.
On the edge: She knows she’s a target. Daesh has developed a theology of rape and a policy of targeting Yazidi females for capturing and parceling out to fighters as rewards.
What’s it like to live constantly on the edge? She and her family had to flee once and have no strong confidence it won’t happen again, since danger is near. What does she think of her future as she wakes each day?
Yet in the midst of this, as we trooped unannounced through her “front yard,” taking photos and talking with her father, she grabbed her phone and took pictures of us as well. It was a small gesture, but it said, “If you can take pictures of me, I can take pictures of you. I have power here, too.”
It was great. We all need that kind of confidence, but she’ll extra in her world. It made me happy to see it in her. And it made me sad, wondering what opportunities she is being denied as she lives on the edge.
This is the fifth in a series about my trip to southeastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, along with four others from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. The trip was led by Fr. Dale Johnson, who grew up in northern Washington but has lived much of the past 25 years in southeastern Turkey as a Syriac Orthodox priest. The earlier posts are available on my blog, unflinchinglife.com.