The story of Salim Noah from Iraq
This is the story of Salim Noah (Jason), a 29 years – old gifted artist who fled with his family from ISIS persecution in Iraq.
Listen to him:
“My name is Salim Noah and I’m 29 years old. I’m from Iraq and I am a Yazidi. I used to live with my family in Northern Iraq in a town called Baadre. On August 3, 2014, ISIS attacked Shingal City and all the nearby villages where my Yazidi people were living. On that dark day, ISIS came into Yazidi villages and didn’t let anyone leave. They separated males from females and kids. They asked first for any money, gold and weapons and then they asked who was willing to convert to Islam. They took groups of males who refused to convert to the sides of villages to shoot and kill. More than 35 mass graves have been found in some Yazidi villages, but we expect there are more because other Yazidi villages are still under ISIS control.
On that day, thousands of Yazidis went to the top of Shingal Mountain, a 72km long mountain range near the Yazidi villages. They stayed there days without food and water. Hundreds died because of hunger and thirst. The Khocho village suffered the worst destruction and death from ISIS. They killed about 600 people from this village and kidnapped the females and kids. All of this is still happening to Yazidi people now.
They took females and all kids to Mosul, Tal Afar (cities in Iraq) and Syria. They took females from 9 to 50 years old for themselves as sex slaves. Yazidi women are suffering, dying million times daily. ISIS sells the women to each other for 5 -10 dollars to buy cigarettes. They taught kids the Quran, prayers and how to fight and cut human heads off… And all that happened and is still happening and no one really cares. No one is protecting us.
ISIS has killed about 5,000 Yazidis and kidnapped 4,000 more. ISIS is doing worse than killing the woman and children who are kidnapped. They are killing kids’ dreams, putting gun in their hands instead of toys. They killed our dreams and feelings. They destroyed our lives.
As many Yazidi families became disappointed, hopeless and feel dead inside, we tried to leave. A smuggler asked for 3500 dollars for each person to get out of Iraq, so we had to deal him our house. He promised he could get us to Serbia, where there were NGOs helping people.
On the 9th of February we fled from our home to Istanbul, Turkey. After one day of rest, the smuggler sent 89 people together in one bus from Istanbul to Edirne [near Turkey’s border with Greece and Bulgaria]. Then they asked us to walk through the forest without any light. Each of us held a personal bag, some carried babies too. It was raining, then snowed about 20cm and there was wind. Three leaders (smugglers) told us that we were supposed to be walking for half an hour. But after 30 minutes, the leaders told us that it will be more than 5 hours, walking on mountains and crossing rivers… They told us that the weather is so freezing that most of the babies will not make it.
After some discussion, we decided that we would not try that risk [walking 5 more hours over the mountains]. The smugglers decided to run away and hide themselves. My brother tried calling the Turkish police. Sometimes there was no answer, sometimes they said they didn’t speak English. One woman talked with me in English and gave me her phone number so i could send our GPS location of exactly where we were. But no one came for help, even after he told them, “Don’t let these kids die here, just get us out from here.” But they didn’t care. One of my sisters had an infection in her kidney, she was really in pain. I thought she was going to die. We made three fires to warm us, but the rain kept putting it out.
We were all afraid, shouting and crying, but the moment that made me feel the most scared was when I saw my brother slap his 9 month old son to check if he was still alive. After suffering for 5 hours, a group walked to a nearby road and stopped a car. The driver called 3 buses for us and we all started running to the buses to survive.
At that time, my sister couldn’t walk because of her kidney pain. With tears in my eyes, I held her arm and walked to the bus. The bus took us back to Istanbul, which was 4 hours away. We tried another 5 times, always suffering. Once, after walking half an hour to get near the Bulgarian border with just my family and some relatives of 28 people, two Bulgarian Policemen with their dogs saw us. Two leaders (smugglers) who were with us tried to run away, but my family decided to sit down and not run. The police let the dogs catch one of them (the smugglers) and bite his body. They hit him with a stick, then took 4 phones from my family and let us go back [to Turkey]. So we walked and waited for a bus again.
After trying 6 times to get into Bulgaria and failing, we decided to go to Greece by boat. It took three tries. During the first time, we got to the middle of the sea and then at 11am, the boat driver turned us back because of the police. The next time, the motor of our boat broke so we had to come back. And on the third time, we successfully reached Lesvos Island.
Three days later, we heard that the Greek border with Turkey closed. We spent one week on the island and then we went to the port for two days. Then they put my entire family on a bus and we went to Ritsona camp. I lived with my family in Ritsona camp / Greece for 7 months.
During our stay in Greece and living in a refugee camp and knowing that we will stay there for so long I had to not give up and I started helping, translating in the camp, going with refugees to hospitals, calling ambulances and doing all that I could and stay strong. The support of NGOs and some organizations was so great and I have learnt a lot from them. I know how it feels when you help someone. But we were dreaming of a day when we would be free. To live our lives as free people.
Today I live in France with my family and I live a normal life, studying and continue to paint with my two brothers Ismail and Salam. With them, we had, already, many exhibitions in different countries and we try to send our messages of love and peace through our art.
This is what we want. This is what we do.”
Salim’s work is amazing. Along with his brothers, Ismail and Salam, they have made amazing things. Check out their work.