Servine, age 16 was startled when her Father came home shouting to everyone to quickly pack only essentials. They were moving.
Servine was only 12 at the time and didn’t understand what was happening. For her it seemed like a normal day. She woke up, had breakfast with her family and walked to school. The only thing odd that she noticed was that the streets seemed a bit more crowded on her walk to school. But she thought little of it.
As her family rushed around the house gathering their things, Servine knew something must be wrong. Little did she know that her world would be changed entirely.
The terrorist group Daesh had invaded Iraq, giving Christians and other religious minorities only 48 hours to leave their homes or to convert to Islam. If they were to stay in their homes and not convert, they would be killed.
Like thousands of other Christians, and minority groups, Servine’s family was now displaced. Thousands of Christians, Shabak, Turkmen and other minorities were forced from their homes with nowhere to take refuge.
Servine and her family traveled for miles until reaching Ankawa, Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan.
It was there that they took refuge for almost 4 years.
Over the years, Servine tried to understand. It seemed Daesh only grew stronger; life was at a standstill. They lived in a continuous moment of terror, never knowing what would come next. Servine’s parents tried to stay positive, but she could feel their hidden desperation and hopelessness.
The discussion grew more and more painful. She just wanted to understand. Over and over she would ask her parents why were the Christians targeted? Why were they hated because of their religion?
To Servine, it didn’t make any sense. She had grown up with Muslims, both Sunni and Shia. She had Yazidi friends and so many more! They lived in her community, went to her school with her and ate dinner with her family. Why now were they all divided? Why did Daesh persecute them for their beliefs?
Servine hoped desperately that one day, things would return as they were- peaceful and richly diverse, free of the terror and chaos brought by Daesh and their religious persecution.
In 2017, after 4 long years of being refugees in their very own country, towns and villages were finally liberated and families could now return to their homes.
Servine’s family was able to return back to Hamdaniya. Sadly, their brief moment of excitement was quickly stolen upon their return home. Everything was different. Their homes were burned, churches vandalized or destroyed, and their neighborhoods empty. It was a ghost town.
Nonetheless, life had to return to normal. Servine had to return to school.
But she was so afraid. Could she trust anyone? Was she in danger? Would her school even be safe? Daesh was only recently removed.
She wondered what school would be like now that half of her old schoolmates were gone. She didn’t know if they were dead or alive. Could the students even be friends? Would there be Muslims or Shabak, and what happened to the Yazidi’s? Would they be there? Would she still have friends?
Their classrooms were silent. No one knew how to behave or what to expect.
She could see her teacher, Ms. Nariman, trying to make class fun, and trying to help the students engage one another, but it wasn’t the same. She was 16 now, and she could see the trauma in her classmates…even if they said nothing.
Ms. Nariman, and the other teachers could see it as well. She knew there had to be a way to engage students and help them overcome their fears.
She decided to reach out to Hardwired when she heard they were working with teachers in Iraq. She was desperate for a way to help restore the lost hope of her students and help them rebuild a sense of trust within their classrooms and communities.
Ms. Nariman and a few other teachers worked with Hardwired to create a play focused on helping promote the message of peace, pluralism, and hope for Iraq.
One day, Ms. Nariman shared the exciting news that a few of their classes would be studying to perform a play about peace and hope. She shared that they would be speaking about diversity and pluralism and that they would learn how they as the youth of Iraq could help rebuild their beautiful and richly diverse country.
Servine was so excited! She could not wait to be a part of this production. Even her classmates were thrilled to participate in the play.
As the students prepared and practiced, Servine paid close attention. The play was about diversity and working together, even despite past conflict. It celebrated diverse religious communities, and empowered individual rights.
Servine was so grateful for Ms. Nariman and the other teachers helping make this possible!
For the first time, Servine was excited to go to school. Class was not only fun, but it was a place of open dialog and critical thinking about real life issues and the conflict that destroyed their beloved country. Even after school when she would share the details of her day with her family, her parents were inspired and excited by her hopeful thinking.
Her class performed the play for their parents and communities, and everyone loved it! The message of their play inspired hope for a brighter future in their small community.
Servine shared, “Despite [the past conflict], we must stick together… we have forgiveness and love between us, and peaceful coexistence should happen… this message must reach everyone. – Servine
When you donate to Hardwired, your impact is resounding.
One child, one teacher, one school, and one community, forever impacted by the message of freedom and hope hidden in a school play.