Yves Gellie is a French photographer and videographer, who visited the Yezidis in Iraq for the first time in 1996. His photographs are published on the Yezidi Photo Archive with Gellie's kind permission.
In 1996, while reporting on the minorities in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Yves Gellie stumbled upon the Yezidi people and ended up visiting Mount Sinjar, their ancestral stronghold. He then discovered and photographed the children of a small traditional school, who wore very long braids, characteristic of the Yezidi culture.
In August 2014, the Yezidis became victims of repeated attacks by the Islamic State. The usually so little noticed people are from then on on the news, because they became victims of an ongoing genocide. From then on, it seemed unavoidable for Gellie to go back. In the spring of 2017, he travels to Iraq with his photographic prints with the idea of giving them as a gift. During his new trip, Gellie wanted to find the children he had photographed in 1996. The search for the children was very complicated, but Gellie was able to find them. And they were still wearing their famous braids.
Yves Gellie learns that these same children from 1996 are now soldiers. They are part of the rare independent Yezidi battalions (not belonging to any militia) which, with archaic pistols and rifles, faced the jihadists. Along with 500 other Yezidis, they were among those who defended the temple of Sharaf al-Din, the most important one in Sinjar.
„Xeber biden wan poriye
Bile berden reş guliye
Şerfedîn mîrê edewiya“
According to Yezidi tradition, Sherfedin wore long black braids, which is why it became a tradition for Yezidi boys and men in Shingal, where Sherfedin lived. However, it is known that this tradition also spread beyond Shingal’s borders.
Sherfedin was the head of the Yezidis in the middle of the 13th century and lived in Shingal (Sinjar), where his sanctuary is located. Under his rule, the Yezidi religion was canonized, which is why he became the personification of the religion.