Yazidis in tent camps in northern Iraq: ‘We are going from genocide to suicide’

The family of Khafse Ahmad (43) cannot fully explain. Her trauma and hopelessness were comparable to so many other Yazidis in the same camp, her brother says.

They had wanted to take her to the doctor. But after three minutes alone in a tent, Ahmad managed to hang himself from one of the ropes. In the crowded camp, relatives quickly found her. Dead.

Now there is singing and crying. Nearly a hundred women mourn the loss of yet another. But they also sing about the nightmares that are their reality. About relatives who are still missing. About their time as sex slaves of IS fighters. About the mass graves where their men lie. They miss their villages, their homes, their old life.

Endless traumas

Everyone in this camp in northern Iraq lost everything when IS invaded Sinjar in 2014. Houses are in ruins. Thousands of men were murdered and nearly 7,000 women and children were taken hostage and sold into slavery. An estimated 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Now, eight years later, most of the community lives in tent camps.

Sinjar, home to the Yazidi minority, one of the oldest minorities in Iraq, is more than two hours away. But they dare not go home.

“There are no statistics, but the number of suicides is constantly increasing,” says therapist Nouri Khudhur. “Usually women. They have it the hardest. Often they set themselves on fire. Sometimes they hang themselves or use a weapon.”

Khudhur works in various camps around Dohuk. He is exhausted by the amount of work and all the stories he hears. He heard about endless traumas. Khudhur: “Suicide is not allowed in our religion, yet people understand it now. The depression is huge. Everyone thinks back to what happened in 2014. The genocide. So we bury these people with respect anyway. It makes everyone here sad.”

According to Khudhur, the Yazidis are “going from genocide to suicide”.

Correspondent Daisy Mohr visited a camp for displaced Yazidis in northern Iraq and stood next to it when a mass grave was opened near Sinjar:

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