|ISIS wanted Moussa to become an agent of hate. Instead, he became an agent of hope to bring inspiration to his community and country.|
Moussa had always been proud of his religious heritage and faith. And although he was a minority in his country, he felt at home…then ISIS came to his village and everything changed.
In 2014, when ISIS – the terrorist group known locally as Da’esh – swept through northern Iraq, the Yezidi community in Sinjar were given no warning. Immediately, the terrorists began killing tens of thousands of Yezidi men and boys, which eventually filled 18 mass graves.
Without any way to defend themselves, 6,000 Yezidi girls and young women were taken as sex slaves. Hundreds of young boys were captured by Da’esh, brainwashed, and then turned into terrorists against their own families and community.
Moussa was only a teenager at the time. He heard what happened to his fellow Yezidis in Sinjar as he escaped his own town of Bashiqa nearby. He was fortunate to escape Bashiqa. Many of his friends in Sinjar did not. And life for the Yezidi community would never be the same.
Their homes were destroyed, and their families separated. Thousands of Yezidis in Sinjar fled to the mountains, waiting for help. Many families in Bashiqa, like Moussa’s, fled to Dohuk and eventually the refugee camps in Kurdistan where they lived for four years until their villages were liberated.
There, huddled in warehouses and empty buildings, they tried to survive. When it was safe to return, his family made their way back to Bashiqa. But life was not the same. They feared their Muslim neighbors – even those who were also attacked and fled Da’esh with them.
Moussa was terrified to return to school, especially since he knew he would eventually have to engage with other students, including those same Muslim students who lived under Da’esh.
At school, he stayed to himself because he was unsure of who he could trust. All of the other students did the same. He could tell that everyone was afraid.
But in the midst of his many fears, there was one thing he looked forward to each day – his teachers, Mr. Rafid and Mr. Rian.
Before their own return to Bashiqa as teachers, Mr. Rafid and Mr. Rian were working with Hardwired to learn new ways to help children respond to the fears and trauma they experienced. They knew it wouldn’t be easy, but something had to be done to help their students adapt to one another and rebuild trust in their communities.
The teachers decided to produce one of Hardwired’s plays with their students. Moussa was one of those students.
The play was called Fruitopia and taught them about respecting the religious freedom of others. And as Moussa and the other children began working on the play, they were able to overcome their fears of one another, and begin to open up about their experiences under Da’esh.
Everyday, as the children worked on the play, the teachers saw their barriers come down. They became more trusting of one another, and they began to overcome the fear that had divided them at the beginning of school.
For the first time in years, Moussa was hopeful for his future, for the future of the Yezidi people, and for all of the different religious communities in Iraq.
Moussa shared, “We learned to work together and coexist… to love each other and cooperate with our neighbors and friends… to work together.”
If left alone, Moussa could have been lost to hate and fear of his neighbors. Instead, he became an agent of hope and helped his community come together to rebuild the trust that had been lost when ISIS attacked them.
When you donate to Hardwired, you are putting a teacher – a Defender of Freedom – into this situation to help Moussa become an agent of hope and inspiration in his community – and country.
Thank you for making it possible for children to live without fear, side by side with their neighbors. You’re giving schools, families and communities hope in a brighter tomorrow where peace will prevail.
And you’re helping us do this one child, one teacher, one school, and one community at a time.