28-year-old Saadiya Hussein Merza, a native of the Tal-Qassad village (Sinjar), was an aspiring hairdresser and sweet-maker, living a simple yet joyous life with lots of friends and family. She talks about how everyone in her small village was very social and life was all about happiness and togetherness.
“Before 2014 [when ISIS attacked], I was going to school with my friends - my best memories are having lots of fun with my friends in school. While I didn’t work, I would help my mother with chores. Our house was small and old, but our lives were filled with such happiness; I miss my village, my friends, and my old life dearly”
Unfortunately, in 2014, life dramatically changed for Saadiya and her village; She remembers being paralyzed with fear and anxiety after learning that ISIS terrorists had surrounded her village. Sadiya and her family managed to escape by climbing Sinjar mountain and staying there for a painful ten days. Yet the most painful moment was when she learned that ISIS has captured and murdered the families that remained in Tal-Qassad village - Saadiya lost family and friends due to the brutality and barbarism of ISIS.
“That fateful black day, everything changed in my life. After we escaped, we went towards the border area of Syria to find Kurdish military forces (YPK) - we ended traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan by foot. I vividly remember crying and feeling so lost as my mother was very sick and it was so difficult to witness her pain”
Eventually, Saadiya and her family arrived in Kurdistan-Duhok city, which was in the north of Iraq. The pain and the brutality ISIS caused has deeply scarred Saadiya’s life - Saadiya’s brother and father are unable to work due to suffering from chronic diseases. Additionally, her mother’s chronic diseases (hypertension and diabetes) have flared up since their escape in 2014.
“ISIS changed and destroyed my childhood and future. They took my friends and they have turned my former bliss into a hell that I can’t seem to escape”
But due to Saadiya’s determination to provide a good life for her family, along with the Yazda-ASB collaboration that has changed the lives of many Yazidis, there may be a positive change on the horizon. Saadiya (who currently lives in the Al-Shuhada district inside Sinjar city with her family) enrolled in a Yazda/ASB-led six-month vocational training program, where she honed her sweet-making skills. She has learned important skills and with the financial help provided by Yazda/ASB and relatives, she has been able to open a sweet shop in Sinjar.
“I love working in my shop and a lot of people also visit my shop every day, which is a joy for me! Also, I have become the breadwinner of my family and am able to buy daily needs and help with setting up doctors appointments for my parents”
Saadiya states that her future plans solely consist of making sure that her sweet shop is a success. Furthermore, Saadiya wishes to remain in Sinjar city due to the fact that her village was destroyed and burnt by ISIS; she also adds that the security situation must be stabilized and the government must aid the Yazidi community in rebuilding their villages and lives.