Khalaf Dakheel's Journey from Survival to Journalism

Khalaf Dakheel's Journey from Survival to Journalism
August 10, 2018
10 min

Khalaf and I quickly became friends as Falah introduced us. He had impeccable English skills, and we sat down together to read a few books. In the midst of our conversation, I asked about his life in the refugee camps and his perspective on the state of his people after the genocide. Like many other Ezidi individuals I spoke with, Khalaf carried sadness provided the circumstances he had endured. However, he recognized the urgency of documenting their experiences and preserving the testimonies of his community. Which led to our next conversation, where he read me his published articles he wrote. He even filmed, directed, and scripted his own documentary on an old android phone he had.

 We talked about Khalaf's career aspirations. Initially, he mentioned wanting to become a doctor while his family was present. However, later on, he confessed his true passion for becoming a journalist, which led to shared laughter between us. Amidst our lighthearted moments and friendly banter, it became exceedingly clear that a platform was imperative for people like Khalaf to share and document the genodice they endured. Despite the challenges he has faced, Khalaf carry aspirations for a better future, seeking opportunities for education and personal growth.

He sent along this introduction on January 22nd, 2021 which ought to be read:

“I'm Khalaf, 19 years old. I'm from Iraq, Sinjar (Shingal ) city but I have been living in a refugee camp for six years with my family in Iraqi Kurdistan. Before 2014, we lived a simple life, we mostly tended sheep and for several years we farmed the land until we could establish our daily lives. It was very difficult yet we were happy with it. Then on 3rd August 2014, when I was only thirteen, we heard that ISIS was headed toward us and also that they were doing very bad things. We ( my family with my relatives ) started to escape to the mountain on foot as we didn't have cars. Before we arrived at the mountain, ISIS came, fired several shots over our heads, and forced us back to our village. For two days we were their hostages. We soon learned that ISIS hoped to wipe all of us off the face of the world. We were all very frightened and they were about to separate us to kill the men and take girls and women to be used by them as sex slaves. However, by luck, there was a problem for them somewhere away from our small village and one of their leaders summoned their men away from the village immediately. We were told not to move, and of course, we agreed. As soon as ISIS left us, we all ran and ran with all our strength until we arrived at the top of the mountain where ISIS couldn't come there. We suffered in the soaring summer heat for 10 days. There was no food or water. I saw with my own eyes many of the elderly and children crying and dying from thirst, hunger, and exhaustion. During that time, I was separated from my poor family. I was very frightened and I thought that I was going to die from thirst and hunger. Finally, a safe path to Syria was created for us. It was a very unexcited and heartbreaking moment to get far from our homeland, I said good bye to my beautiful sheep and the place where I was born. We walked and walked. Then after 13-14 hours of walking, we arrived in Syria where they welcomed us with food and water. We stayed there for several days. Many were separated from their families just like me and we were all thinking about our families. Then suddenly I met my family again and found out that all were still alive. We were then transported to Iraqi Kurdistan where we found relative safety and lived wherever we could find an abandoned building , until camps were built a few months later. What daily life in the camp like is: It's been very difficult for six years for us to stay in the camp. We have lost our jobs (tending sheep and farming the land ). We don't have neither bathroom nor kitchen. We often don't have general electricity especially it was very bad years ago but now it's better, so for the rest of the time in the winter we need to use candles, build little fires and use kerosene heaters, but it's very dangerous because the tents are very flammable and rotted from the sun. And when it rains, our tents are flooded. Our daily life is so hard, my both mother and grandmother are sick and they always need to go to the doctor, and my father runs a small shop to manage our daily lives. And none of my family members has ever received a salary. They all depend on my father and me as I sometimes work as a servant till I and my siblings can study and go to school and till my parents can go to the doctor. We're facing a very difficult situation and go through a damn life here in this camp for the past six years with much suffering.”

Khalaf has written many articles as well that are attached below:

His Medium profile.

"Jilan’s story" and "Yazidis' fate"

Holly Johnston's article about Khalaf.

His Youtube chanel.