Preserving an ancient culture under threat from genocide

After avoiding obliteration by Islamic State, the Yazidis of Iraq and beyond began an urgent project to record their rich heritage, says Helen Fitzwilliam.

The World Today Published 2 December 2022 Updated 1 December 2022 3 minute READ

Helen Fitzwilliam

Journalist and filmmaker

Malaeen Luqman was 13 years old when Islamic State militants kidnapped her family in a coordinated attack on the Yazidi homeland of Iraq’s Mount Sinjar in 2014. Separated from her mother and taken to Raqqa in Syria, she managed to escape to Turkey after 12 weeks of captivity. 

Today, Malaeen is one of 16 women survivors scattered across camps in northern Iraq who are documenting the experiences and customs of the Yazidi people on camera, canvas and film to create a digital cultural archive. It is one of many initiatives to safeguard this fragile minority’s identity since Islamic State jihadis tried to erase their heritage by mass murder, sexual enslavement and the destruction of historic shrines and villages.

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