I had made contact with Arba through a volunteer organisation called DINIT, an Irish based humanitarian volunteer recruitment agency. The director of this organisation had said that he met with Arba who was interested in photojournalism and who very much wanted to highlight his story and that of the Yazidis people. Arba was a member of the Yazidis community, one of Iraq’s oldest minorities. In 2014, he and his family were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar in the Iraqi north-west region, or face slaughter by an encircling group of Islamic State (Isis) jihadists. The UN has said that roughly 40,000 people – many women and children – have taken refuge in nine locations on the mountain at that time (Jalabi, 2014). ISIS has been recognised by the United Nations as the perpetrator of genocide of Yazidis in Iraq. A 2016 UN report (UNHCR, 2016) says IS has subjected members of the religious group it has captured to the “most horrific of atrocities”, killing or enslaving thousands.
My initial discussions with Arba took place by email. I was led entirely by Arba’s request to DINIT to help with the telling of his story. I sent several long emails to Arba explaining the purpose of this research project, to which he often used the term “thank you for this humanity” or “I am very happy with this humanitarian work. Note I know Arabic and Kurdish language”. “Ok my friend I’m OK on everything”.
He first told me his story by email as follows:
My name is ‘A’ a Yezidi displaced from Iraq, we have been displaced in 2014 because of ISIS’s attack when they shut our villages in the early morning of 3/8/2014 because we are from a different religion .many many of our men have killed by them, and kids, girls and women have been taken by force as well. We ran away without food and clothes climbing Shingal mount where we stayed thirsty and hungry there under sun light for a week. Then we went to Syria and after that we settled down in Zakho which is a city of Kurdistan region. Now we live in Bersive 1 camp since that date, actually we have suffered specially in summer, the camp lacks to a lot of services especially shared bathrooms and WCs for different many families, in addition the water is not pure and always we are in danger of the tents being burnt since that thing happened several times and people died as result. We also are afraid in this community to be attacked again for religion difference causes. The yezidis have been exposed to genocide 74 times over years. My father’s family consists of: AMH,1969, householder; DSM,1971, housewife; AAM,1997, high school student; SAM, 2000, high school student; OAM, 2003,2003, secondary school student; AAM, 2008, elementary school student, OAM, 2015, a child. (Email 12th January 2018).
Arba stayed in touch with the DAH students and with Kerry and sent copious numbers of images, some of which can be seen in Appendix 6. These photographs were sent by Messenger and were displayed on Arba’s Facebook page. They illustrate his interest in photojournalism and the power of images to tell a story. Many of the images show the conditions of living in the camp. Some show the aftermath of a particularly harsh flooding event at the camp with images of people wading through the floods or the filth and debris inside tents in the wake of the storm.
My method of data gathering with Kerry as participant was: narrative analysis of his emails, facebook entries and choices he made about what information to put on the website.