Yazda would like to express its most sincere thanks and appreciation to Mr. Matthew Barber, who departed from the organization this weekend after a year of faithful service as Iraq Executive Director. During his time here, Matthew worked day and night (often times seven days a week) to support and empower Yazidis in a variety of ways. As a result, both Yazda and the Yazidi community as a whole have been left stronger and better equipped to face the challenges of the future.
While at Yazda over the past year, Matthew instituted a host of new programs and helped bolster those that were already in place. He started Yazda Mobile Medical, Sinjar Outreach, Qeleme Zerin (“Golden Pen”), helped reopen the Ta’akhi (“Brotherhood”) schools, and created Tîrêja Rojê (“Ray of the Sun”), providing a forum for Yazidi religious leaders to pass on the community’s traditions and culture to coming generations, and in these difficult times, to extend a message of hope while reaffirming the dignity and self-worth of all Yazidis. He helped strengthen programs like Yazda Medical and Genocide Documentation, and put great effort into expanding the Psychosocial Support Program at the Women’s Center, knowing that the support offered to female survivors of ISIS enslavement is the most important work that Yazda does. It is worth noting that with all these programs, Matthew worked tirelessly to bring in a majority of the funding.
In addition to his work on the humanitarian side of Yazda, Matthew was a strong and resilient advocate for the Yazidi community. He represented and fought for the interests of the Yazidis both in Iraq and internationally, attending countless meetings and conferences with government officials, academics, and members of the NGO world. In all of his advocacy work, he was uncompromising when it came to putting the needs and the voice of the Yazidi people first, and in spite of all the challenges Yazidis currently face, he never lost sight of their potential to create a bright future for themselves. This spirit of hope and hard work in the face of seemingly overwhelming challenges is the legacy that Matthew leaves with Yazda.
Matthew brought unparalleled knowledge and experience when it came to the Yazidis, having spent extensive time researching and living in Iraq, Syria, and the region. He was here in Iraq when the genocide began on August 3, 2014. It was this knowledge and experience that gave rise to a deep passion for the Yazidi people and their plight. Because of his work, Matthew has left the Yazidi community better off, empowering so many of his colleagues at Yazda (and partners of the organization) to continue this important work far into the future.
All of us at Yazda would once again like to express our deep gratitude to Matthew Barber, an exceptional leader who for more than a year put his heart and soul into Yazda’s work, and left a strong legacy to follow after. We wish him all the best as he continues his studies at the University of Chicago, and fully expect to see him again.