Let Girls Learn: The Yazidi refugee girls boxing their way to a new future after ISIS

When ISIS overran Sinjar, their fighters carried out a pre-planned mass abduction of girls for the purpose of institutionalised rape. Initially they were looking for unmarried women and girls over eight. More than 6,000 Yazidi women and girls were enslaved and transported to ISIS prisons, where they were sold as sex slaves, raped, tortured and killed.A 40-minute drive outside of the city of Duhok, Essyan camp is one of 26 similar camps for internally displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan. Home to around 13,000 refugees, almost all of whom are Yazidi, it resembles a small village, with a school, hairdressers and shops selling clothes and gadgets scattered everywhere. Sheep and goats roam free, often followed by a giggling toddler hot on their heels. Despite being their home for the last eight years, the conditions the Yazidi refugees live in are still poor – makeshift tents, one per family, make up the majority of the accommodation. The Lotus Flower centre is a short drive through the camp. Like its namesake, a flower that grows from the mud, the centre feels like an oasis, with classrooms in cabins centred around an “art garden” painted in bright colours by the participants. Education as a route to empowerment is at the heart of the Lotus Flower’s mission. Many of the women living in the camps have seen the men in their family killed by ISIS, and become the sole providers for their extended families overnight. As well as the classes the charity runs, it also helps women like this to set up their own small businesses within the camps.