12. April 2021 – SCHOOL TALKS


Last week, SCHOOL TALKS swapped its usual school environment for a university! After watching the documentary HÁWAR – My Journey to Genocide together, the students of the Humboldt University of Berlin got into a lively discussion about human rights and Yazidism with our guest Matthias Hofmann, author of the book Kurdistan von Anfang an (freely translated to “Kurdistan from the beginning”).

“It frightens me that ethnic groups that lived together peacefully for decades would commit genocide against each other”, uttered one student during the discussion. The group of students attended a seminar exploring different religious traditions, the role of religious minorities during conflict and qualitative research on religion. Through this lens, they discussed concepts such as the nation and religion, as well as the role of Yazidism within the broad religious spectrum of the Middle East and its coexistence with other religious communities. “With regards to this patchwork of religions, the Yazidis have always depended on getting along with their neighbours and avoiding conflict as much as possible”, Hofmann underlined.

Based on his personal experience after several visits to the region, Matthias Hofmann added that “a key reason why the camps work as well as they do is the girls; they truly run the whole show because of their incredible social skills”. The girls’ exceptional social competencies result from their socialisation in large families, where each member learns to play their essential part to make things work. This fact should however not distract from the lack of perspective, trauma and poverty residents of the camps face.

Despite all the hardship, a sliver of hope can be found in certain stories. Our guest showed the students a painting made by a Yazidi artist who was held captive by the so-called “Islamic State” for several years. One day, a camp leader recognised her artistic talent and provided her with studio tent. “My first impression of the painting was that she was the butterfly, forever chained. Yet upon closer look, I recognised that the butterfly was actually about to break free. Stories like hers are much more meaningful than any statistic”.

We thank our partners Deutsche Postcode Lotterie and Engagement Global for making SCHOOL TALKS possible!