NYLA Talks

Zina Hamu, a Yazidi genocide survivor in Klaipėda


Zina Hamu, a Yazidi from Northern Iraq, had a dream to become a pediatrician. She was in the last year of school, when in 2014 ISIS terrorists occupied her hometown. Zina and her family needed to leave immediately.

For two years they were living in a refugee camp where Zina became a self-taught photojournalist. After the unexpected turn of events, she got a chance to apply for the LCC university in Klaipėda, Lithuania – a city in a country she has never heard about before. This May she was announced as one of the winners of Emerging Young Leader Award for her work in documenting the lives of the Yazidi community.

Zina is one of the luckiest survivors of the ISIS invasion to Northern Iraq. Today, she is sharing her story for NYLA podcast.

Zina’s family is still living in a refugee camp in Iraq. They encourage her to start studying in Europe. She will visit them again this summer, after 1,5 year break.

Yazidi religion is one of the oldest in the world. When ISIS invaded Northern Iraq, they saw Yazidi people as a minority that needs to be eliminated. Thousands of men were killed, many women were imprisoned as sex slaves. In 2017 the bodies of almost 1,500 Yazidis were discovered. The United Nations define these killings as a genocide.

The interview was held in the U.S. embassy in Lithuania. Emerging Young Leader Award is given by the U.S. department of state to 10 young people from all over the world.

With her photos, Zina wants to tell the world of what has happened to Yazidi people. In April she was the guest of the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.

Photography by Mindaugas Drigotas. Video by Mindaugas Drigotas and Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius. Podcast episode hosted and edited by Karolis Vyšniauskas, recorded by Kata Bitowt. Original music composed by Martynas Gailius. The studio voice-over was recorded at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. The interview was held with a help from U.S. Embassy in Lithuania.

Further reading:

The Daring Plan to Save a Religious Minority from ISIS by Jenna Krajeski, The New Yorker

Slaves of Isis: the long walk of the Yazidi women by Cathy Otten, The Guardian

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