In the weeks leading up to the three year anniversary of the August 2014 massacre that saw ISIS kill up 4,400 Yazidis and take up to 10,800 captive, I spent a month photographing members of the minority ethnic group in Lalish – a religious site dating back an estimated 4000 years, and the Yazidis most holy temple – in a bid to portray their resilience and coping mechanisms following one of the worst examples of genocide in modern history.
What I discovered was a group of people determined to use their faith as a means of fighting back against religious discrimination and terrorism; where previously 50-100 members of the community would have made the trek to Lalish on a daily basis, there are now up to 1000 visitors every Friday and Saturday. Septuagenarian spiritual advisors sit in ancient alcoves of the underground tunnels, imparting words of wisdom and reassurance to those with family members still in captivity. Babies are baptised into the faith for the first time – their heads dipped in the holy spring, as they officially join a faith that they are then never allowed to leave. Teenage girls bow their heads to wander through low-ceilinged cavern to pay respects to the tomb of their Yazidi forefather, Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi. And children scatter across the courtyard to gather newly-fallen mulberries from the cobbles in the folds of their skirts and the creases of their shirts.