BBC Arabic: Slaves of the Caliphate
Freelance producer and filmmaker
Later this week BBC Arabic, part of the BBC's World Service, broadcasts Slaves of the Caliphate, a compelling documentary made by freelance producer Namak Khoshnaw. The programme follows Yazidi activist Nareen Shammo as she tries to convince IS to free captured women, and interviews woman who have escaped.
The documentary will be broadcast internationally on BBC World News on Saturday 17 January at 9.10am and 8.10pm GMT.
I was in London and when the town of Shingal was captured by IS on August the 3rd, 2014. I read a lot in the news about the Kurdish Yazidi women who had been captured by the IS fighters but I had an overwhelming feeling that we weren’t getting the full story. To make that happen I made a decision, got on a plane and took a big gamble to see if I could find some of the women who had survived and if they’d to speak to me, even if we could not show their faces on camera.
Making this sensitive story it was almost impossible to find survivors, who were willing to tell their experiences on camera, especially after the different ordeals they had faced. It was a challenge to reassure them that this film would not endanger them further.
But I was lucky enough to be introduced to activist Nareen Shammo by BBC Arabic. She is a Yazidi herself. I explained the plan that I had for the film, I said to her, “I know it’s extremely difficult to find someone who is willing to speak on camera, and after what they have suffered an interview is probably the last thing they want to do”. But I made it clear that if this story was to be told to the world we needed to find people to speak to. Nareen agreed to travel and spend a week with us visiting some women who had escaped IS, but she warned me that they would never speak on camera.
We travelled to Sharya village, which is only 30 minutes’ drive from the frontline between Kurdish Peshmarga and IS fighters, and we could clearly hear the bombs going off. It was frightening, but the presence of the peshmarga fighters certainly made us feel safer.
In the course of our trip I met six women who escaped IS captivity, and all of them were willing to speak to me on the condition we did not reveal their identity. Then Nareen suggested we go and visit 19-year-old Hamshe, who had herself escaped from IS. Hamshe’s family were very open minded and agreed that if Hamshe was prepared to speak on camera they would allow it. Hamshe took the extremely brave decision to talk to us and is a key part in this important film which uncovers the truth about what is happening to these women.
This is the most emotional shoot I've ever done. A few times while I was listening to the horror of Hamshe's story I had to remind myself I was there for one reason: to get it right and focus on the filming. In the past I've interviewed victims of the Kurdish genocide and at that time I thought nothing could be worse, but now 15 years later here I am again. Hamshe's story is horrific and the fact that her ordeal happened in the 21st century makes it all the worse.
Namak Khoshnaw is a freelance producer and documentary filmmaker.
- Slaves of the Caliphate will be broadcast on BBC World News on Saturday 17 January at 9.10am and 8.10pm GMT