By Suzan Jamal:
A tribute to the 19 Yazidi women publicly burned alive in June for refusing to submit to their ISIS captors.
I see my mother wearing a long white dress with an old black jacket, sitting with a group of women from Arbat refugee camp in Kurdistan. All of them are crying, and my mother is raising her hands toward the sky; she has no idea what has happened to me. “Mom, mom why you are doing that?” Mom asks something from God, but because of all the women’s sobbing, I cannot understand what she is saying. I know all the other women, but I am surprised that they’ve become much older in about two years and misery and deep sorrow can be seen on all their faces.
A batch of children are sitting in front of the women. Some are confused, others are crying without knowing what is happening, but none of them are playing. “I miss my doll!” Those little girls are lucky because, when the ISIS attack on Sinjar started, they were not old enough to endure the same fate as us; our sins were to be female, young and beautiful. According to ISIS’s belief, our bodies and blood are allowable.
We were tortured by ISIS. They hit us with sticks, whips, electric shocks and, without food and water, we were imprisoned inside the bathrooms. And for different prices, in different places, to different people they sold us. Light skinned girls with blue eyes sold for above 500 dollars, and others sold for from 30 dollars to 400 dollars with the customers all testing our bodies, even the intimate parts! Ah, mom thanks to God that you do not see us in this disaster. What am I talking about? They raped little girls and even those girls delivered their babies. I do not like to say anymore, I know you cannot bear all this.
Mom, mom, why you do not answer me? I feel fine now, no pain. Neither the pain of my broken tooth which was broken by the ISIS men guarding us nor the pain in my leg which was twisted when I was trying to escape and jumped over the wall. And my hands, why they are so nice, white and clean? I am surprised because they became ash, and my legs were like two burned twigs. Ah, mom, I wish you knew that I am fine and I wish you could see me from somewhere to know how gorgeous and wonderful I am.
But, still, I am afraid. Fire, the iron cage, my friends smelling of burnt meat and burnt hairs, is that all a dream? Or is what I feel now that I am fine a dream? I am worried, mom. I am afraid of when I wake up, and seeing myself with my friends again inside the iron cage and seeing my hand’s skin burnt on the bars of the iron cage. Ah, what terrible pain it is when your body is burning, and you see your friends who were suffering before from the pains of broken teeth and broken legs and broken heads, hungry and thirsty, and now they are suffering from being burnt alive!
I remember when an ISIS man came and said in Arabic: “Before maghrib prayers and breaking fasting, we will burn you all alive. This is a good preparation for your second life in the hell, though still, you have time to repent. God is merciful and forgives his slaves”. I did not respond even then because we have no issue with God.
We, all 19 girls, we stared at each other, our tongues were too dry to say even one word but with our eye gaze and our hearts we said to each other: “If we die one day sooner we will feel peace more quickly”. We felt more courage than fear of burning and death. We inherited the soul of resistance from Melek Taus. My God you are the witness that when you instructed all angels to bow to Adam, all the angels obeyed except Melek Taus. He said: “How can I bow to another being? I cannot bow to anyone except you and your merciful face”. My God, you are the Creator, you are all-knowing, and you are the witness, you created Melek Taus from your light, he was not evil and we do not worship evil. This is 73rd genocide for the extermination of Yazidis. Grandpa Adam and Melek Taus, please say something.
When one of the ISIS men came holding a flame, in our customary way of prayer we kissed the ground three times. I said in my heart: “Bless the resistant soul who is standing in front of her God”, “God let me live doesn’t matter it is short or long”. I could hardly stand up. About one year ago every time when I ended my prayers I said: “Oh my God, do anything to give me a chance to marry my lovely one who is a Muslim guy, and however it turns out don’t make my fate similar to Dua’s fate (1). But now I change my supplication: My God, please avenge us!
When I turned my head, I saw one of my friends who was standing with fire all over her body, she was like a Pomegranate tree with bunches of a fire flower. We stared each other; this scene of the fire tree was the last thing I could see because my eyes and my lashes were all burnt. We had all been burned. We became ash.
When the dying day of a phoenix birds is approaching, they will know that they are dying, while they sing the fire will come from their beaks, they will sing with sadness and sorrow, over and over, and finally they will burn and become ash, but another phoenix bird will come from the ashes and fly up towards the sky.
We were the same as phoenix birds. We were 19 Phoenixes, we made a deal to sing together, and say to ISIS: “No, we are no longer your slaves, we do not do sex with you”. We sang our dying song, we sang and fire came from our soft throats. 19 Phoenix birds burned and 19 Phoenix birds were born and flew towards the sky.
Mom, my mom, promise that we will come back to Lalish (2). One day we will come back and we will pray at dawn toward the sun. We will come back with the seven colors of light to Lalish but our light will spread over the face of the earth. A new earth with new flowers, birds, sky and sea will be created, another earth whose light is strong enough to blind the ISIS monster and makes them deaf and unable to speak, until they kill themselves.
Melek Taus, you are God’s chosen on the earth, I do not want anything more than this – my mom does not hear me, so please tell her: “Maria is very well, and she just misses you a lot.”
(1) Dua Khalil Aswad (1989 – April 7, 2007) was a 17-year-old Iraqi Kurdish of the Yazidi faith who was stoned to death in an honor killing because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy. It is believed that she was killed on April 7, 2007, but the incident did not come to light until a video of the stoning, apparently recorded on a mobile phone, appeared on the Internet.
(2) Lalish is a small mountain valley village situated in the Shekhan District of Dohuk Province in northern Iraq. It is the only and main temple of Yezidis in the world. The temple belongs to ancient times wherein many archaeologists and historians agree upon the fact that the temple was a part of Sumerian and other ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. Later it became the location of the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, who is a central figure of the Yazidi faith.
Suzan Jamal was Editor in chief for a scientific magazine in Kurdistan and has been living in the United States for 18 months. She has written several books and translated several others from Arabic into Kurdish.