It was a year ago when you first met Sozan.
A dear friend traveled to Iraq and sat with her in the shipping container she calls home—to mourn and lament and dream with her—and to carry her story back to you.
It was a year ago when you allowed Sozan’s story to break your heart the way it broke ours when we first met her. And it was a year ago when you cried out with one voice, “We don’t let go and we won’t let go and we won’t turn away.”
This time last year, the wounds were still raw. Sozan and her sisters were reeling from the unspeakable devastation they had so recently endured. ISIS had taken everything. Their homes. Their loved ones. Husbands, mothers, daughters, sons. ISIS took the life they once had… and burned it.
“We could hear the gunfights with ISIS all around us.” Sozan shared, describing what it felt like to be trapped on a mountain, surrounded by militants. “Six of the children with us,” she said as she held up her fingers, “they died. No food, no water.”
You wept with Sozan and her sisters as they told you about having to flee before they could even bury their dead. There was no time to say a proper goodbye—ISIS was coming for them.
Your breath caught in your throat as you read about 9-year-old girls being sold into slavery, and as you heard about mothers having to choose which of their children to take and which to leave behind—because it was simply impossible to save them all.
You carried Sozan’s pain as your own. You lamented with her and her sisters.
But then you did something else.
A year ago, when it seemed as if their story was finished, you helped them write a new chapter.
Sozan and her family had escaped death, but now what? There was nowhere left for them to go. After fleeing their homes, they first went to Syria, then to a safe haven in Iraq. They were beyond the reach of ISIS, but they were still very much trapped.
“We don’t speak the language here,” Sozan said desperately. “We have nothing here. Our children can’t go to school here. [They] wake with nightmares.”
You know better than most that survival is not the same as being fully alive.
You heard their cry—and you dreamed of a different future. You dared to embrace Sozan and her sisters as your sisters, too.
When will it end?
When the world lives what we actually are: We are sisters.
We are a sisterhood. We belong to each other. We belong to the women who can’t read, we belong to the women who have been stripped of every hope, who are being sold in slave markets, whose daughters are coming back to them with ripped apart virginity. ISIS doesn’t own these women—they belong to us. They belong to the sisterhood of the world.
You dared to dream these women could do more than survive. You dared to believe they could thrive—yes, really—even in the midst of their upheaval.
Who says refugees don’t have what it takes to rebuild? Who says they can’t care for their own families?
Who says their kids can’t go to school?
Who says we ought to wait for the camps to clear and the crisis to end before we start dreaming about their future?
You dared to believe you could change the headlines—that you could give Sozan and her sisters something more than mere aid.
And then you went and did just that.
One year on, thanks to you, Sozan’s story is far from over. She is writing a new chapter at this very moment.