RITE OF SPRING, Kurdistan
The Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic minority on the planet. They are a people of 40 million found in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq and whom carry the living aspirations of a culture, a history, an identity that has not yet been allowed to exist. This condemnation by the rulers of the ages is a familiar one for those who would seek their own freedom.
What is extraordinary with the Kurds is that after having suffered centuries of persecution, oppression and genocide, they have steadfastly remained their own people. Being offered assimilation or the requisite destruction, the Kurds have refused both and embraced a lonely existence in defiantly declaring their own survival.
In a region that has been the birthplace and ruin to countless empires and gods, the Kurdish people have remained. This instinct to persist -no matter the difficulty- is something I document in my work. I want to understand this motive of survival because I believe it is an actual underpinning of the universe. Something that functions like dark matter, creating a hidden foundation to our existence.
Like the Kurds, the Yazidi people have suffered continuous persecution, but as with the Kurds, they too have refused every persuasion to abandon their traditions and identity.
The Yazidi faith is a Mystery religion whose origins date back 2000 years. They are mostly farmers, famous for their figs. Their homeland is within the isolated region of Sinjar in northern Iraq. Sinjar lies within just miles of Mosul in the Ninevah plains. This region, once a haven for ethnic minorities like the Yazidi, became the center of the Islamic Caliphate. In August of 2014, the invading forces of ISIS began what was to be a genocide against the Yazidi. More than 10,000 were either killed or enslaved. Close to 4,000 Yazidi girls remain unaccounted for, many having been sold in the ISIS slave markets for the price of a pack of cigarettes.
ISIS called the Yazidi unclean; "devil-worshippers", yet the irony for the Yazidi is that they don't believe in good and evil. Instead they see both sides as originating from one source and that the devil himself was redeemed through tears and that redemption itself is holy.
While the Yazidi people are often considered the first or original Kurds, their presence in the Middle East is fast dwindling. The photographs taken may be among the last recorded while they remain in their native homeland. Both the Kurds and Yazidi are outsiders to history. They are a rare people, capable of carrying the great burden of their own freedom through this ancient land.