[Editor’s note: after receiving new information, this post has been updated to more accurately reflect the ethnic and religious identity of Majid and his family. We apologize for any confusion!]
You’ve made some amazing days possible here in Iraq, but the day we met Majid ranks among the best.
Majid is a part of a tiny religious minority known as the Kakais (or Yarsani), a secretive religious sect scattered across the region. Ethnically, they are Kurdish. Apart from a few scholarly articles here and there, the Kakais are a tough group to learn about—even after extensive Googling!
One morning, my phone lit up with a Twitter notification from a friend: “found refugee boy w/ heart problem. Can you help?” So, with little more to go on than the boy’s name and the fact that they live in a city park, we loaded up and made the drive to see if we could help.
After a little searching, a child led us to Majid’s makeshift tent and he invited us inside.
The family shared their story: how they fled ISIS—twice. How they have nothing left. How so many of their family and friends are missing or dead. How the only family photo they have left was the Polaroid we made of them that day.
When asked how he felt about his situation, he always focused on his son’s health before talking about homelessness or persecution: “We were devastated when we learned about his heart [problem]. We told ourselves the child wouldn’t survive, especially as we didn’t have the means to take him to Erbil [for treatment].”
It’s overwhelming enough to see Iraq’s humanitarian crisis in the news, but to see it sitting in front of you with quivering lips and a whole lot of suppressed pain—we knew we had to do something for their son.
It’s almost impossible for most of us to understand being such a minority. A minority among minorities, the Kakais have a history of not fitting in, often persecuted and displaced with few to protect them. And now, with ISIS militants occupying their homeland, many of Majid’s people have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, waiting for the day they can return home.
As we were saying our goodbyes, we asked Majid why his tent is located next to hundreds of Christian refugees. “A lot of our friends are Christians, actually. I’m from a town where most people are Christians, and we are all friendly. We even named our son, Ishaq, after one of our good friends who is a Christian!,” he shared.
After all they’ve been through, the warmth and kindness this family shows those different from themselves inspires us.
Thankfully, Majid’s story isn’t over—we aren’t finished serving him! We’re working with local cardiologists and surgeons to plan a way to save his son, so hopefully we’ll have an update for you very soon.
In the meantime, you can help serve a displaced family like Majid’s!
$25 can send a displaced child back to school.
$75 can supply an entire family with blankets and heaters for the winter.
$250 can provide a lifesaving heart surgery for a child in need.
Photo credit: Heber Vega