On Her Shoulders; On OUR Shoulders

Simolen Tala Jumbam

“I am a survivor of the Yazidi Genocide, and now I am a refugee. I was a villager who found herself ripped from her life of freedom and dreams to that of a slave, without hope…” These words have haunted my mind for the past few days.

Recently, I watched the screening of the documentary “On Her Shoulders” at one of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) theatres downtown, for the HotDocs Film Festival. One of the producers reached out to our office, since we work in refugee sponsorship and resettlement, and offered us tickets to come watch the screening.

Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old (at the time of the filming) UN Goodwill Ambassador and Yazidi human rights activist from Iraq, did not want the path she was on. Her story accounts re-iterate the fact that she was content in her village as a farmer. The year 2014 forced her on the path she is currently on. ISIS attacked her village, displacing many, killing the men and elderly women, selling the girls and younger women as sex slaves… as the world watched on, world leaders mute on the topic. How one group of people can appoint themselves superior over another group and collectively decide for themselves in this era that they will wipe out that group while the world watches is beyond me.

Now Nadia tells and retells her story to whoever will listen. I watched as the director/producers portrayed Nadia from the point of view of the toll it takes on her to tell and retell her story. I watched as emotions changed throughout the images, as her guard rose and fell when facing the media, as tears came unbidden when talking about family, and as her courage, spurred by determination, prevailed when addressing powers able to make a difference.

Meanwhile, right at home, another situation comes dangerously close to mimicking what is happening to the Yazidi community. I think about my country, Cameroon, and the madness escalating and my mind reels with warning signals. It does not matter how the situation started, it does not matter who is politically right or justifiably wrong. I do not know much about politics to understand the powers at play. But I do know this, nothing justifies the killing in numbers, burning houses, kidnappings, rape, false imprisonments, forced displacement of masses… by government or non-government forces that have been going on, NOTHING!

Knowing how Nadia’s life changed from fullness to nothingness, I cry for my country – for the many who have lost everything. Knowing how she was a child and became an orphan, I cry for my country – for the many lives that have been lost. Knowing that she had a home and was forced to become a refugee, I cry for my country – for the many who have fled into neighboring countries. Knowing that the powers that be were aware of the Yazidi genocide – ISIS had their atrocities on display as trophies on YouTube – yet nothing was done about it, I cry for my country. Knowing that all these life-altering changes happen in mere seconds! I cry for my country.

There are crises happening around the world, some we have no idea existed. The list below, unfortunately, is not exhaustive:
– Yazidi Genocide
– Crisis in the English-speaking part of Cameroon
– Christian persecution in Pakistan
– Rohingya crisis in Myanmar
– Crisis in the Central African Republic
– Crisis in South Sudan
Many more… especially those areas hidden from media coverage or of no political interest.

My hope is that more people become at least aware of these situations. One never knows how another’s heart can be stirred to action.

A statement Nadia made as she addressed various Heads of States at the opening session of the UN General Assembly on September 2016, comes to mind. She said:
“The world has only one border – it is called humanity…I beg you all to put humans first… if beheadings, sexual enslavements, and children rape, if all those acts do not force you to move when will you? You and your families are not the only ones who deserve life, we also deserve life. Thank you.”


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