By Lisa Miara
I look at these happy, smiling faces and I could cry and laugh with joy at the same time. I know their recent past. A cruel past that began at 2.00 AM on August 3rd, when they were mercilessly separated from their families, many of whom were murdered in front of their eyes.
Just a few hours before these photos were taken, 20 Yazidi women who had all suffered, been tortured or sold multiple times within the brutal regime of ISIS, either in Northern Iraq or Syria loaded themselves into a mini-van hired by the Springs of Hope Foundation at the Shariya Camp, just north of Duhok.
We brought them to a five-star hotel in the city; Yazidi women, whose lives had been confined to small agricultural villages dotted around Mount Sinjar. They had never seen a city until they were forced into captivity. There was no sightseeing or tourist attractions for them….only the slave market and lewd captors.
Yet, thanks to brave rescuers, here they were, these women of valour; strong and courageous survivors entering a hotel, to be made up, hair done and dressed as queens in specially-designed gowns for a fashion show.
Watching them experience an elevator which took them up to the 16th floor was amazing. At first, the trepidation of being enclosed was palpable but, once they got the hang of it, the young girls were going up and down for the sheer fun!
As they were surrounded and supported by an incredible international team from the US, UK, Israel, and Cambodia, they visibly relaxed. By the time we departed the hotel for the ‘Dare to Dream’ event in the Shariya camp, their body language had noticeably changed.
Wearing new garments, wearing colour, their souls were already being restored. They had value in their own eyes. An observant eye caught one of them, now wearing gold, looking at an exhibition of black dresses worn in Daesh and smiling to herself.
Why hold a fashion show in a refugee camp, with temperatures reaching over 115 Fahrenheit? Simply to tell these women and the guests, whether local dignitaries or refugees, ‘you are not forgotten. You are not alone. You are loved. You are valued. You are strong incredible women with futures, if you just but Dare to Dream.’
Why, you may ask, would Yazidi women even listen to us? For one reason, we are Israel. We have come out of the Holocaust decimated, with nothing, emaciated bones and today we have a country, are a strong people and are thriving. The Yezidi community turns its eyes toward Israel. If you made a dream come true, we will Dare to Dream.
Lisa Miara moved from England to Israel in 1975. She founded the Springs of Hope Foundation in Israel as a personal response to two encounters with terrorism within her family. Springs of Hope Kurdistan was founded in January 2016 and is based in Duhok, Northern Iraq, working alongside victims of genocide and crimes against humanity.