The Dreamers

Author: Piruza Khalapyan


Yazidis know well what the fight to survival is. As it has struggled with oppression and discrimination throughout the centuries, the community has grown to shun integration, choosing to keep itself in isolation to preserve its traditions and beliefs. With this isolation, comes a lack of education. There are over 35,000 Yazidis living in Armenia with about 20 villages fully populated by Yazidis, yet only 5,300 pupils are enrolled across the country. Of them, only 35 percent are girls.

Official statistics show that only a fraction finishes school. According to Siaband Bakonyan, coordinating the board of the cultural and ethnic organization council at the president Administration of Armenia, a mere 25 percent have completed the 12 mandatory years of school. Only 25 women in the entire community in Armenia have continued on through higher education.

The first time I photographed Yezidi children was in 2012, it was in a school. In Zovuni, a village a few kilometres north of Yerevan, I learned that they leave school early, by the 5th or 6th grade  - the boys follow their fathers on the mountains to attend their livestock, the girls help around the house and prepare to get married. Dropping out is more common among girls. Yazidis grow up knowing that that they should preserve and guard their national traditions and be dignified Yazidis, even at the cost giving up school. Their dreams come true only at night - in their dreams.

“We try to convince parents not to stop educating the kids, but to no avail,” explains a teacher at the school in Zovuni where I recently returned. 

Yazidis’ worldview has dream-like traits as it revolves around angels. Their monotheist and non-dualist religion believes that the world was created by God, who entrusted it to seven angels led by Melek Taus, better known as the Peacock Angel.

Yet, education for the Yazidi women should be rooted in the physical world’s daily life. And children set free to pursue their dreams. Like 8-year-old Ana.

“I want to finish school, I dream to become a doctor.”

Ana, 8 years old. She dreams to become a doctor.
Gayane, 8 years old. She dreams to become a teacher.
Armine is 17. She dropped out from the school when she was 15. She has certain responsibilities at home, including milking cows.
In 2012 there was a special classroom for Yazidi students at Zovuni’s secondary school. In 2015 when I was back to film these children again, I learnt that the classroom was closed down because the number of Yazidi pupils had halved.
I met Bella in 2012. At that time she was 14. The only dream she had was finishing school and becoming a teacher. When I was back to Zovuni in 2017, I learnt that she had passed her 12th year exams in the 11th year, got married, and had left the school.
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