A part of the big Noh family in their temporary home in Ritsona camp.
The Nohs arrived in early March of 2016 after they left their home in Iraq. They are part of the Yazidi community, a religious and ethnic minority group which traces its roots back to ancient times in the region and is often ostracised, accused of being “devil worshippers.” In June, the United Nations human rights panel concluded that the Islamic State of Iraq was committing genocide against the Yazidis.
When news of the deliberate targeting of the Yazidi community around Mount Sinjar by the ISIS regime began intensifying, Mr and Mrs Noh decided that it was time to leave with their nine children and seek refuge in Europe.
However, it was not easy for them to leave their home in Iraq. Salam, the second-eldest son in the family, describes to us how hard it was for the family. “We love our home. We made it ourselves. Our father was the main builder and I helped design it. When the construction was complete, we even used Photoshop to decide together what colours we wanted for the house,” he says as he passes his phone with pictures of the house to us. Sahil, the younger brother, added, “We had people asking who was our architect, designer and engineer? We laughed and said it was all of us who built this house together.”
“But it broke our hearts to leave a house like that,” Afra, the eldest daughter reminds everyone solemnly.
Nevertheless, through sheer resilience and an unbreakable spirit, the family has managed to overcome all of the adversities. They have rekindled the missing sense of home by extensively personalising their living area.
Their experience as Yazidis also explains why the Nohs are a close- knit family despite their large size. Used to being a minority, they only had each other to rely on in many situations. We hear them share stories of the sacrifices Esmaeel, the eldest son, made for his younger siblings. Esmaeel has always had a passion for the arts. Even when we visited him in his tent, he was busy painting a new piece of work. But a career in the arts was not a well-paying one in Iraq. He decided to pursue a degree in economics, but had to put his studies on hold to work as a checkpoint officer on the interstate highway. This allowed him to support his younger siblings to complete their own studies first. However, the war broke out soon after that. Salam, who was studying Arabic, was three months away from graduation, and Afra only had one year more to go before graduating in engineering. For this, all of his younger siblings are grateful to him.
With no job opportunities available to asylum seekers until their applications are completed, Esmaeel finds his silver lining in his reignited passion for the arts again. Many members of the camp have seen his talent as he has now completed two life-size mural paintings: one on the side of a warehouse and another at Cafe Rits, a location on-site.