DOHUK, Kurdistan Region — A Yezidi painter is hopeful to share with the world the stories of atrocities her people faced at the hands of ISIS through her artwork.
"It is very difficult. Once there was a survivor who was just rescued. ISIS had abused her, raped her and sold her to many men. I went to her and talked to her," Maryam Maruf said.
The 21-year-old painter is from the Yezidi town of Khanke, outside of Duhok in the Kurdistan Region.
"I did not have my painting materials with me at the time. I said to myself that I will turn her suffering into a painting, and will show it to the world," she lamented.
Maruf's work has been displayed at three exhibitions in the Kurdistan Region, and some of her paintings have been shown in Japan with the help of organizations.
She is preparing to have another exhibition for her paintings in Washington, D.C., with the help of a US organization.
"My next exhibition is primarily about Yezidi girls, their sons, the youth, the mothers — those who are unable to see their mothers. It will be a bigger exhibition. This one is in America."
She wants to express the stories of Yezidi survivors through her artwork, so many women have come to Maruf, who did not fall into ISIS' hands, to give their testimonies.
"While we were captives in the hands of ISIS, some of us ran away. They [ISIS] took some women away with them. They [ISIS] enslaved some others. Some committed suicide," said Almas Darwesh, a Yezidi woman while in Maruf's studio.
Most of the stories are full of pain and plight, and it's in Maruf's studio where she translates these words into art — 30 so far.
"The world is not aware of what has happened to us. The things that have happened to us are huge. ISIS did a lot of terrible things," said another survivor Shahnaz Ilyas.
"They abused us. They took our women and girls. They killed our husbands. We would like our stories to be shown and not be forgotten. We want our voices to reach the world through these paintings."
While thousands of Yezidis taken by ISIS have been found, the search continues for the Yezidi community and local authorities, who have requested additional international assistance to aid in discovering the whereabouts of their loved ones.