2020 Photo Contest, Portraits, 1st Prize

The Haunted


Adam Ferguson

For The New York Times Magazine

15 April, 2019

Husband and wife Salim and Sumaya, both aged 21, in their tent at Kabrato Camp 1, Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan. Sumaya is from a Yazidi village in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, and was kidnapped by IS in 2014. She lived as a slave with a Tunisian IS family until 2018, when relatives managed to pay a ransom to free her. Sumaya won’t go outside and contemplates ending her life.

As the Islamic State group (IS) retreated from territory around Mosul in northern Iraq, thousands of former IS prisoners were liberated, many in severe states of trauma. The photographer took posed portraits of displaced Yazidi people and other minorities who had suffered human rights violations perpetrated by IS, in camps for displaced people in northern Iraq. The Yazidi religion is monotheistic and can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamian and Abrahamic roots. Due to their unique beliefs, the Yazidi people were seen by the Sunnis of IS as ‘devil worshippers’. When IS occupied ancestral Yazidi lands in northern Iraq in 2014, IS fighters massacred around 5,000 Yazidi men. Women and girls were abducted and forced into sexual slavery, and boys forced to train as child soldiers. Some 500,000 Yazidis were displaced. Many now live in refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and Nineveh Governorate in Iraq. Jan Kizilhan, a psychologist working in one such camp at a center for people who survived the atrocities, points to the effects of this severe personal and cultural trauma. These include feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, tension, and a variety of physical illnesses.

About the photographer

Adam Ferguson

Adam Ferguson studied photography at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. After graduating, he traveled from port to port through the Caribbean and Mediterranean a...

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