Hogir plays an untitled song which he composed over three days in October as a remembrance to Sinjar’s Yezidis who were massacred by ISIS. He was 16 when the militants invaded his village of Snuni in August 2014, part of an attack that would result in the deaths of 5,000 Yezidi men.
An estimated 3,200 women and girls remain enslaved by ISIS—what now amounts to about 850 days, 850 nights. From the fleets of buses that transported them to warehouses to the notarized sales contracts for their captors, the insurgents created a “detailed bureaucracy” of sex slavery, found Rukmini Callimachi of the New York Times.
With his hands resting on his keyboard, Hogir says, “We don’t have music now,” referring to local weddings and celebrations. “There is no happiness until our women and girls are back.”
A July report by the UN quoted a survivor who said, “Women would lie and say we were older. Girls would say they were younger. We tried to make ourselves less appealing. We would scratch ourselves and rub dirt on our faces. These things did not work.” According to their testimonies, even Arab neighbors with whom they had once lived in peace helped the militants identify who was lying about being married. With little hope of escape, dozens of enslaved Yezidi women and girls committed suicide. ISIS banned their headscarves because many were twisting the cloth into nooses.
Hogir says he did not know any of the kidnapped women or girls. But he can’t forget them. Today he lives in a multi-room house only a few minutes drive to Shariya camp and its 18,000 inhabitants, including survivors of sexual slavery. Hogir’s older brother, Salam, teaches music in the camp, and his father teaches sociology and geography. They don’t know if they will return to Snuni. Although the region was liberated in 2015, all infrastructure has been destroyed, and mines make Sinjar too dangerous to return to.
Hogir spends his free time playing and composing, blending Western rhythms with Kurdish instruments, like the bilûr, a wooden flute. He says, “Our hope is that captured people come back even if the land is not returned.”