The Forgotten People
The Yezidi’s Account of the Last Genocide
Intimate portraits of a little-known people under persecution
In the summer of 2014, ISIS invaded the region of Sinjar in northern Iraq. Their aim was to systematically exterminate the Yezidis, an ethnic minority with its own ancient religion and culture. The men were murdered while the women and girls were sold into slavery; sons were forced to become child soldiers and the youngest children were sold to ISIS families. Journalist Brenda Stoter Boscolo travelled to Iraq to write about the Yezidi genocide.
While international reporting has focused mainly on the sexual slavery imposed on Yezidi women after the ISIS invasion, little has been said until now about the larger and deeper attempt to destroy the Yezidis as an ethnic group. In refugee camps in Northern Iraq, Boscolo interviews dozens of women, men and children whose lives were irrevocably damaged by ISIS, but in the process she discovers a troubled history fraught with persecution in a hostile land. She is overwhelmed by their willingness to tell their harrowing stories, which they hope to share with the world.
We meet Yezidis like Ismael, who lost 35 family members, and Majdal, who was trained as a child soldier. There’s Nadima, who bore an ISIS soldier’s son, and Turko, who became Muslim to save her children. Boscolo also speaks with government officials, religious leaders, doctors, students, professors, activists and soldiers.
She investigates the social repercussions of genocide: How has it changed the traditions which forbid members to convert religion, as so many women and children were forced to do to survive? And what about the Yezidi children fathered by ISIS soldiers? How has Yezidi humanrights activist Nadia Murad inspired other women to come forward with their stories? Along the way she makes connections and builds friendships, learning about the Yezidi culture. Caught between the Iraqi Arab and Kurdish communities, with whom they have historically uneasy relationships, the Ezidis see themselves as their own ethnicity. They have their own religion, whose holy books have been lost in the 74 genocides they have survived.
They are poorly understood and often portrayed as devil worshippers, making them targets for fundamentalist Sunni groups like Al-Qaeda before ISIS. Many of the Yezidis feel they have no one to turn to but each other.
Writing with an open, personal style, Boscolo alights the essential strength that lies in community, individual human resilience and the ability to find meaning in life after trauma. The Forgotten People reveals the heartbreaking human face of a community in peril.