Kordi is 33 years old Iraqi Yazidi. She survived the 2014 genocide at the hands of ISIS. She is now living in the Serres refugee camp in Serres, Greece.
I am mother to five girls and one son. We are from Hadana [region in Kurdistan]. We'd been celebrating the Yazidi summer festival when Da’esh (ISIS) came and caught us off guard, at around 6:00 pm.
They took the men from us into to the streets to kill them there. Three of my cousins, my husband, and my uncle were forced to put their hands on the back of their heads and line up in the street. We were praying, “We know you will kill us right now, and God is seeing it.”
Just then, some neighbors [an Arab non-Yazidis] came into where we women were. We knew it was our neighbors and friends from the past, even though they were all wearing black clothes on were covering their faces. One of them put his hand on another’s gun and said “Put it down. These women are helpless and can't flee; let’s go somewhere else.” When that happened, our men just ran back inside, their skin yellow from fear.
Even though we were spared, ISIS went to the other houses, taking all the other men outside and killed them right in front of the building we were hiding in. They piled the bodies on top of each other in a huge pile. Their women were screaming and running through the dead bodies and trying to wake up their husbands and brothers. The soldiers pulled them by their hair and threw them into cars. We fled to our garden and we waited until 6:00 in the morning. ISIS spent that whole night searching through our village for survivors.
That morning, we fled. We tried to shrink ourselves, walking only one step at a time. I held my children’s mouths closed so they wouldn’t scream, and we snuck from village to village side-by-side, huddling and hiding, until 12:00 at night. We hadn't had anything to eat or drink all day, and the heat of the sand had been too much for our children.
We knew that our children would die from dehydration if we didn't find help soon. That's when we saw some cars driving nearby, and we had two choices: either the cars belong to ISIS and they will just kill us right away, or maybe they are people who can help us. So we ran out in front of the cars and asked them to stop. It turns out that they were from our village and had fled by car. They gave us food and water and drove us to Shafardine [one of the main religious areas for the Yazidis]. From there, we fled to Turkey and finally to Greece.
From that day on, my daughter has been mute, still to to this day [three years later]. Even a doctor here in Greece told me, “She is traumatized, and that’s the reason why she isn’t speaking.” We've tried several times to get her to speak. But it’s true that she saw a lot of horrendous things. We saw what the ISIS soldiers did in front of her.
My husband has been in Germany for a year. [Many men went ahead to prepare for their families, but then the borders closed and many families are indefinitely stranded in Greece and Turkey]. He's in a transfer center, and he said, “it isn’t good here, because my family isn’t here with me.” My husband feels so bad because I’m still stranded. He recently told me that he would be much calmer and happier if we were all together, "You and the children, together, with me.”
I don’t know when I’ll get to Germany. We've already spent a lot of money to process our family reunification application. We've had to get our papers together and our marriage certificate translated into German and other documents proving that my children really are my children translated into German. We're already in debt and we haven't even started our new lives yet. I’ve finally got all of the documents together now, so I'm going to Thessaloniki tomorrow to find out what the next step is.
I just want to be with my husband. I just to get his children back to him, too. I don’t have any family members anymore--the war has cut us off from our siblings and our parents. My father just passed 3-4 months ago, and I couldn't make it to his burial. I’m just hoping to at least reach my husband with my children because it’s always quite difficult for us. I would do anything to see my husband, even get in more debt. I've never asked for anything without working for it, even getting to see my husband and be reunited again.
I didn’t want to come here. It’s like we don’t exist anymore. So many of us died and so many of our Yazidi community are gone and living new lives in other countries. How can I live with that? No matter where you look, no matter which country you look in, we [Yazidis] are dwindling in size. We don't even have a homeland anymore. If it wasn’t for ISIS, we wouldn’t have had to flee over the mountains and seas. And it’s all because of them, all because they did this to us. It’s like I lost everything. I feel like I don't know anything anymore. My mind is blank now because I saw so much death destruction, and I’m still so afraid of the Islamic State.
Photos by Shannon Ashton. Stories collected by Kate Hubrich.