The Hidden Photo

An initiative called The Hidden Photo published a blog post featuring my photograph from Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan. Here’s the link  in Polish and English: 

In the fall of 2014, I traveled to with journalist colleague Cathy Otten to meet Zakho hospital’s only psychiatrist, Dr. Haitham Abdalrazak. A month early, ISIS forces attacked Yazidi villages, killing men and capturing women, children and the elderly after Kurdish security forces failed to defend them. Those who could fled to Mt. Singar, where they were under siege and suffered from hunger and thirst.

The Yazidis are an ethno-religious minority present in Iraq and neighboring countries. Considered infidels by some, they have oftentimes been persecuted over their history. Beginning in 2014, ISIS enslaved many women, forcing them to convert to Islam before selling them to ISIS fighters.

When we arrived in Zakho, the elementary school had been transformed into a makeshift refugee camp, full of some of the 300,000 internally displaced families.

Many of them were traumatized by what they saw and experienced. Dr. Abdalrazak was working overtime attending to patients when a family came in, attending to a young catatonic woman. Nineteen year-old Wanza was unresponsive since the death of her father. When her father has failed to defend his family from ISIS, he called his daughter, and in desperation, told her goodbye and shot himself.

I’ve seen my share of suffering in the course of my work, but this case was unforgettable. The reaction of the girl to what she’d experienced represented the numerous cruelties inflicted on such innocent people. I find this frame heartbreaking. To me it highlights the sadness and inability of the women to help their sister overcome her psychological breakdown.

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