Five years on: How are women in the Yazidi community rebuilding after IS?

It’s been five years since the Yazidi community of Iraq was attacked by Islamic State (IS). On August 3, we will commemorate the attack with a special event at Humanity House where two brave women will share their personal stories about how they have been fighting for a better life for Yazidi women.

IS fighters attacked the Yazidi community in Iraq leaving many men murdered, and thousands of women and children kidnapped, sold and abused. Five years later, the IS terror in Iraq has still left deep scars on the community. Many of the women who escaped from the IS fighters, or were liberated, still live in tented camps in northern Iraq. These camps were designed to be only temporary, but are still occupied. There is a shortage of everything, and temperatures range from 50 degrees in the summer to well below zero in the winter.

During these HagueTalks we will commemorate the attack on the Yazidi community by considering the current plight of Yazidi women in Iraq. We will hear personal stories from three very brave women: Layla, Kazheen and Behar. Layla was held prisoner by IS for three years. She wrote a book about her experiences, entitled Layla and the Night of Pain, to attract the attention of the international community. Through her organization EMMA, Behar offers psychosocial assistance to women who are victims of IS. Yazidis who live in the Netherlands will share their culture through food and music. In addition, the Hivos exhibition ‘Dare to Dream: Five years after the attack on the Yezidi community’, can be seen.


  • Behar Ali is a woman with a mission. As a young woman in the late 1980s in Iraq, she experienced the notorious poison gas attack on Halabja. When Saddam Hussein started another campaign against the Kurds in the mid-1990s, Behar fled to the Netherlands where she specialized in women’s rights. After the fall of Saddam, she returned to northern Iraq to help rebuild her country. Behar is co-founder of EMMA, an organization that offers psychosocial support to victims of Islamic extremists. ‘Women whose entire families have been killed by IS seek help from EMMA. There is so much suffering; many of them have endured the unimaginable,’ says Behar.
  • Layla Tallou is 30 years old and a member of the Yazidi community in northern Iraq. IS held her prisoner for almost three years,. Together with her brother Kaled, she wrote an impressive book about her experiences entitled Layla and the Nights of Pain. The book is special for several reasons. It is one of the few occasions that a woman has come out with her story. It is also the first time that a Yezidi man has been brave enough to listen to and write down his sister’s story. With this book, Kaled has broken the taboo in Iraqi society about discussing sexual violence. The book’s publication has been made possible by Hivos. Layla has chosen to tell her painful story and have it translated into English as a way of raising international awareness community for the current plight of these women.
  • Kazheen Jalal was born in exile and now uses her past to create a better future for  the Yezidi women.

Moderator of this event is Leila Prnjavorac from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This programme is co organized by Hivos and Humanity House to highlight the current plight of Yezidi women in Iraq.

In order to raise awareness for the current plight of Yazidi women in Iraq, Hivos is presenting the exhibition ‘Dare to Dream: Five years after the attack on the Yezidi community’. The photographer is Seivan M. Salim from Iraq. The exhibition is on show at Humanity House from 3 August.

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