Shahab Sameer is a writer and a member of The Union for the Literaries and Writers in Iraq, originally from the South of Sinjar. His map represents the trauma of thousands of Yazidis from Sinjar who were brutally uprooted from their village by ISIS attacks in 2014. Identity through the material objects of Yazidis’ traditional clothing is anchored to the trauma of the landscape of the mountain that saved many of them who fled the village. The map charts Shahab’s journey with his family from South Sinjar to a safe place that was only ever going to be temporary, the camps in the Kurdistan area of Iraq. Yet, eight years on, Shahab and his family and thousands of others are still internally displaced in camps with only a few managing to return back to Sinjar.
Sinjar is mostly a semi-desert landscape with a mountain that most Yazidis know well because of their history of seasonal work in farming and keeping animal stock. The route to reach the mountain is treacherous but every Yazidi knows that this mountain has always had our back every time we needed to escape. The edge of the mountain was home to the original villages of Yazidis before the Iraqi Government provided housing away from that area back in the 70s, therefore, it remained a familiar place of refuge for many Yazidis.
When ISIS attacked from the south of Sinjar, there was no other route for us other than the mountain. All routes outside Sinjar were blocked, our only option for escape was towards the mountain. Yazidis who knew the mountain well also knew that once we reached the mountain, other routes and options would be possible, either towards the Syrian border to the west or towards the Kurdistan region to the northeast of the mountain. Nevertheless, all of these routes are treacherous, and none are fit for cars, only for skilled hikers.
Remember, we had elderly people, pregnant women and small children. My wife was heavily pregnant at the time with our second child when we made that journey. We walked for three continuous days. We could not take anything with us and the little we took we had to leave behind in order to continue to climb with little weight on us, but we managed to rescue our traditional clothing. August is incredibly hot in Iraq, we had no water or food but we had to continue our walk regardless. We were walking with other families and people helped each other. Two days after we arrived in the Kurdish region in Iraq, my wife gave birth.
Now, we have a metal cabin in Mosul’s Camp Sheikhan, it is officially part of Nineveh province but the camp is controlled by the Kurdish authorities. Over the years we have developed our cabin a little and brought a few pieces of furniture. We can freely leave the camp to go to work or university but our longing for a return to Sinjar remains as strong as our love of Lalish Temple.