Soswil, 17 years old, from Girsel, Sinjar, Iraq
The day of the genocide I was with my family, except for my father. He was at war fighting for us. We fled to another village and we were hiding in a house. There were a lot of old people and children with us. We knew that ISIS was coming, and we wanted to flee, but we realized the old people and children couldn't flee. So we decided to wave a white flag when ISIS arrived.
When they came, they took the guns from the men, and separated the children, women and men from each other. Then they took us girls and the IS soldiers said ‘let's do something with the girls’. One of the Emirs [higher IS commander] came and told them “no, no, no, they are in my hands, so you don't touch them.”
They took us into a house and left us there with some other girls. We were locked there without food and water for three days. Then we managed to flee. We had a system where every evening five women were able to escape, finding different ways to get out. We said to each other that only five can go at a time, because if too many leave at the same time, they will catch us.
We fled for a couple of days, and then we saw PKK soldiers [Kurdish soldiers], and we waved a white flag so they wouldn't attack us. We fled with them to the mountains. There was a plane to help people escape, which they told us to get on, but there were too many people, so we did not manage to get on the plane.
We were still trying to sneak out to the mountain area to hide. We were with a lot of other people trying to do the same. At night IS soldiers passed by the area where we were hiding, and some of the kids with us started to cry, so the IS soldiers stopped for a while to look for us, but thankfully they didn’t find us and they left.
I was with family members, all of them women. And some other people too, whom we had met on the way. Everytime we moved we had to hide and move discreetly so as not to get caught. When we were trying to cross the streets, we would do it always three people at a time so we didn't get captured or seen.
When we reached the main area of the mountain, I got cut off from my family for a while. We got split up and I searched for them. Finally, we arrived to the mountain and I met my father there again, with the rest of my family. We all sat together there.
We didn't have any water and because we were with many old people and children, we really needed water. So me and my sister started to go back down the mountain to find water. We felt dizzy, and didn't feel good. Eventually we found something to eat and to drink. We were searching for more, and saw a village where people were fighting each other. We hid in the fields there, not being seen, trying not to get caught. We stayed there overnight and slept on the ground.
My uncle was a member of the PKK. He came with the Kurdish soldiers and they had water and food with them. They made a safe passage for us so we could get over to Shamal [in Syria] and get into a safe zone.
We spent some time in the Kurdish area of Iraq, and we searched for a smuggler who could take us across to Turkey but the smugglers told us, “I can't help you because the government will probably kill me if they find out.”
Eventually, we did find smugglers to take us to Turkey, to Siirt. We stayed in a house there for a long time. Then, they took us over to the border [to Greece]. We went on the sea with boats. On the water it was quite hard for us, because our boat stopped twice, and didn’t function properly. We stayed out there on the water, and people tried to call the Turkish coastguard to get us. They were on their way already, but then our boat started again and we moved on. We were afraid the little boat we were on would break, but finally we arrived.
Well, we didn't actually arrive. There were some coast guards who came to help us but they couldn’t take everyone. They said we can take half of you, and the other half have to wait until we come back. The half who were left were trying to hold on to this light in the water, and the coast guards saved us because we were holding onto this light on the water.
Then we arrived on the Greek island, and from there we got transferred to Nea Kavala camp (in Northern Greece). It was quite hard for us, because the conditions in Nea Kavala were difficult. Sometimes we didn't have anything to eat, and it was always dangerous for us.
The Muslim refugees in Nea Kavala were always fighting with us, and frightening us. Last year on the 3rd of August [on the memorial day of the ISIS attack in Sinjar 2 years earlier], they said they wanted to attack us. One man even said “we need to finish the job that we started a year ago. We will break them totally, and do the
same as we did a year ago and take their women.”
The Kurdish PKK who were refugees there in the camp helped us again, like on the day of the genocide. So at 4 o'clock in the morning we all took our things and fled together. It was exactly like on the 3 rd of August 2014. We were sitting in the sun in the middle of nowhere. Some people brought us food, but we didn't want to eat it, because it was the day of the genocide, on the 3rd of August. We sat there until 4 o'clock in the evening. Later, NGOs came and gave us tents and told us just to let the kids sleep in the tents, because there wasn’t much space in them. They gave us some food and something to drink.
Eventually, they moved us to Serres. [UNHCR moved them]. We were again living in tents, and we made our own food over open fire. Here the conditions were not good for us either, because we stayed so long, and there were a lot for us.
Later on, they brought us to apartments in Nea Vrasna and said that we would stay there for 4 months, until the ISO boxes arrived for the camp. They said the boxes will look like our homes, but they weren't like our homes at all. They were not great to live in, but still better than the tents that we used to live in. I remember that before,
when we lived in tents, when it rained our clothes would get wet.
And until now I'm here. It's been about one year and eight months that I've been living here. I don't like it here. I miss my father a lot. My father left one year ago to go to Germany. I was so happy when I heard that we were going to join my father. But now we are stuck here. Home is for me where my family members are, and people
that I love. I wish I was with my family.
When I am reunited with my family, I want to work as a translator and help poor people.
Photos: Shannon Ashton (Instagram @shannon__ashton) / Story: Kate Hubrich (Instagram @advo_k8)