Overcoming evil by doing good

“There’s never been a more important time to overcome evil by doing good.” This was the message I grew up with in the land of the midnight sun in Norway, in the most peaceful corner of the world. Little did I know that I years later would experience the urgency of doing good firsthand with the horrific traumas affecting Yazidi women who came out of ISIS captivity.

The Yazidis are a minority group living mainly in Iraq, Syria and Armenia. They have their own religion consisting of a mix of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism. According to their elders, through history they have experienced 74 genocides. Most of the Yazidis live in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar.

The killing and abduction of thousands of Yazidi men, women and children in Sinjar by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in August 2014 led to a mass displacement of the whole Yazidi community in northern Iraq.

Around 300 000 Yazidis are now shattered in displacement camps across the northern region. Unable and unwilling to go home many are uncertain where to turn for help. According to some sources, approximately 3000 women and children are still missing. There has to this day not been any significant attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Most Yazidi women were kept in Raqqa in Syria or Mosul in Iraq where they were taken to slave markets and sold. Some women and girls managed to escape from their captors. Some walked for days. Some put sleeping pills in the food of the captors and could run away. All were traumatised by the violence they experienced.

These photos are of the women and children I met in the city of Dohuk in Iraq. I was working at a local centre providing psychosocial support to former ISIS captives. We provided a six-week programme - lots of care and kindness. Between 2015-2017, around 200 women and children received treatment at the centre.

"If ISIS could see us now, they would cry because now we have hope again."

The photos are stories of hope. Of extreme kindness that heals the scars of extreme evil. Of Father Joseph Ibrahim who gave refuge to Christian families fleeing from Mosul. Of learning to live again. Of dealing with collective trauma while waiting for news about other family members.

Photo Essay by: Gry Tangstad


Gry has lived and worked in Palestine/Israel, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan and Northern Iraq. She has been working with coordination of humanitarian aid. Today she lives in the south of Norway while conducting her field of work in integration of refugees, cross-cultural issues and identity in diaspora.

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