Sundance Review: Sabaya



In summer 2014, daesh captured the town of Sinjar and most of the Sinjar district in Northern Iraq. The population fled into the mountains, including an estimated forty thousand Yazidis. The insurgents waged a systematic campaign of genocide against the Yazid People, capturing girls and young women and murdering everyone else. Whilst the exact number is hard to quantify, it’s estimated that there are two thousand ‘sabaya’, or sex slaves, still in captivity in Syria.

Al-Hol Camp in north-eastern Syria houses over seventy thousand deash supporters. It’s considered the most dangerous camp in the Middle East and the terrorists still hold sway in the area. Volunteers from the Yazidi Home Centre, including Mahmud and Ziyad, have dedicated their lives to rescuing girls who have been smuggled and held in the encampment. They work with infiltrators, formers slaves themselves, raiding at night under the cover of darkness. Hogir Hirori’s documentary, Sabaya, follows their work.

Using undercover footage, interviews with the rescued women and following the volunteers as they undertake their dangerous work, Sabaya tells the story of unassuming and everyday heroes. Both the infiltrators and people like Mahmud and Ziyad risk their lives on a daily basis. Their mission is of the most critical importance. While daesh may no longer attract much media coverage in the West, their influence is still evident in many places. Sabaya does what great documentaries do well. It exposes a largely unknown issue in a way which is informative, emotive and entertaining.

Sabaya screens at Sundance Film Festival.  

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