“How could I forget you? I wear you on my hand.”

Erin, one of our field staff, was out visiting a group of Yazidi refugee friends yesterday. One thing led to another, and the next thing she knows, one of the women is needling a homemade ink mixture into her knuckles—giving her a permanent tattoo—as one does on a casual visit with friends.

These women, this visit—a trip out to their tents—is more than an aid worker’s check-in. These women are sisters. We’ve held their babies in the hospital, wept and laughed alongside them, celebrated weddings with them, attended circumcision parties for their sons (yep), and just lived life together.

We love them.

And now, Erin has some of their very DNA in her skin. Throughout history, women here in Iraq and across the region have made tattoos from simple ingredients like ground spices, charcoal, plant extracts, and breastmilk.

When Erin said she wanted tattoos like theirs, they had a mixture whipped up in no time. One woman ran out for a lump of charcoal from the fire while another went out for the milk. After a few minutes of grinding and mixing a paste, Erin’s four fingers were dotted. She intentionally left one unmarked.

“When you are finally free and back in your homeland, I will come visit you and get my thumb dotted, too,” Erin promised them.

“What if you forget us? Will you leave and not remember us?” they asked her.

“How could I forget you? I wear you on my hand.”

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