Heartbreaking film on Ezidis introduces the Kurdistan Memory Programme

A heartbreaking screening of the documentary film “One Yazidi (Ezidi) Family Vs. ISIS” made an impression on the audience in Erbil’s cinema, bringing some to tears Sunday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A heartbreaking screening of the documentary film “One Yazidi (Ezidi) Family Vs. ISIS” made an impression on the audience in Erbil’s cinema, bringing some to tears Sunday.

The screening was sponsored by Kurdistan 24 and is part of the launch of the Kurdistan Memory Programme (KMP).

The film tells the tragic story of the Ezidi Chatto family, who was the victim of the 2014 massacre carried out by jihadists as the Islamic State (IS) took over Sinjar (Shingal). Eventually, survivors of the family manage to flee to Germany and build a new life.

“We really want to reach a wider audience as possible, but the problem with the film in a way, that it’s extremely painful to see. But I do think that’s important, that the wider community sees this, and have some understanding of what these people have been through, not only Ezidis but also the survivors of Anfal,” Gwynne Roberts, International Director of the KMP, said after the screening during a Q&A segment.

“I just hope by showing this film, people in and outside of Kurdistan will have deeper appreciation and sympathy for their experience,” he added.

Since 2008, the KMP’s teams have traveled all across Kurdistan, collecting over 1,000 interviews from people who have witnessed major events in modern Kurdish history.

“These testimonies feature alongside over 75 years of historical footage in a unique archive that is now online,” the KMP says on their site.

The website services as an online ‘world-class museum,’ “illuminating over 500 years of Kurdish history in a collection designed to inspire and enlighten future generations.”

Roberts told Kurdistan 24 that there are both short and longer-format films on the website, including one on the Mahabad Republic in Iran. “It depends on the subject and so on. We didn’t make just one documentary.”

Gwynne Roberts, International Director of the KMP. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Gwynne Roberts, International Director of the KMP. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

The final goal of the project is to document the Kurdish story, both present and past.

“We are coming up with some features on Syria [Rojava] in the next three weeks. And we have been approached to extend it to Turkey itself, but we have to do this very carefully since this is a KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] funded project, and Turkey is sensitive,” he said. Therefore, they might focus on a historical story of the Kurds in Turkey.

Roberts himself has visited Kurdistan for the last 40 years as a reporter, and also covered the Anfal genocide in 1988, in which up to 182,000 people died. At that time, Kurds were victims of  ‘fake news.’

“The US administration of President Reagan [at that time] even blamed Iran for the gassing of Halabja, when it was clear that Iraq was the guilty party,” he said. “This was the fake news of the day and the story too many Western reporters were prepared to accept,” he said.

Moreover, when the West was allied to Saddam during the Anfal genocide, the reality was distorted, he said.

“In 1981, I went behind the lines of the Iran-Iraq war to report the injustices suffered by the Kurds. The New York Times, that previously published all my articles on the Kurdish uprising in the mid-seventies, was not interested in my coverage now that the Kurds were no longer allies of America,” he said.

“Nevertheless, in the years that followed, I made it my mission to make the world aware of the truth of historical events in Kurdistan. This commitment continues to this day for the Kurdistan Memory Programme,” he affirmed.

Although the Kurdish story has been ignored the past 40 years, the situation has improved over the last few years, also because of the Kurdish independence referendum in September 2017, he argued.

“People [the media] are realizing it’s a significant story,” he noted. During the referendum, the Kurds “expressed a deep-seated wish of the Kurdish people to achieve Kurdish independence.” 

“I can’t see how you can ignore that,” he told Kurdistan 24.

Roberts also addressed initial plans for the creation of a museum in Erbil. The museum design was made by world famous US architect Daniel Libeskind, who lost extended family in the Holocaust. But until now, the KRG lacks funding for this project. 

“It’s quite an expensive undertaking,” Roberts concluded.

Editing by Nadia Riva