Tahsin was born to the famous Omer Fakhir, a venerated musician for the Yezidis of Sinjar. An eight-year-old Tahsin watched his father sing with awe, but secretly he worried that his voice would never be so revered.
He remembers how one day, his father asked him to sing and then slapped him across the cheek for not trying hard enough. One of his brothers still teases him about it—the one who wasn’t captured by ISIS and is still missing.
Their family spent eight days on Sinjar mountain, hiding from ISIS after the terrorist group invaded their village in August 2014. They had little food, and even less water. Only when Tahsin, his wife, and children arrived safely in a displacement camp did he start to sing again.
He now teaches his youngest son how to sing in their traditional dengbej style. He feels it keeps the memory of his father, and the legacy of that famed voice, alive. And in their home, Tahsin’s saz—a Syrian-style saz as opposed to his father’s Kurmanji—rests near his AK-47.
“The saz is my favorite weapon,” he says. Then he quotes Idris Barzani, a Kurdish politician who died in the midst of Saddam Hussein’s systematic extermination of Iraq’s minorities: “‘The bullet can travel only two or three kilometers. But music can travel continent to continent.'”