Mizgin works in a juice factory near Erbil. Four years ago, she was attending classes as an eighth grader in Syria. Her favorite subjects were music and art. “I didn’t decide to drop out,” she says. “It was imposed on me.” When her family fled Qamishlo, they didn’t bring papers to certify her education level. Now 18, she says she had trouble entering school and her family needed her to support them.

She smiles when thinking about what she could do if the choice was there for her. She would pursue a career in music. That’s why she got the day off from the factory to perform for Music in Exile, with her parents’ support. The songs Mizgin writes are about life in her refugee camp, love, and things that she keeps for herself. She never knows when she’s finished with a song because she crosses out words all the time.

Some people find her singing shameful. Especially when she sings with her all-male band. But Mizgin doesn’t let their criticism stop her. Not only is she still singing, she is beginning to learn how to play the saz. It helps that younger girls at the camp come up to her after performances to say they also want to sing.

“Whatever happy moments I had in Syria are erased from my memories.” Besides music, “I just have work and home,” she says. The band practices in the leader’s cell phone repair shop. The band’s name, Azadi, means Freedom.