Inside one of the tents that provides shelter for 7 people, I met a mother and her four children.
The eldest daughter wore long sleeves that covered the bite marks, where members of ISIS had bitten away chunks of her flesh from her forearms. Her mother pulled up her daughter’s sleeves to show me. Her scars were very clearly the map of a mouth full of teeth. The bites were only the physical traces of what thirteen months being held captive had left on her family.
“Day before yesterday, my six-year-old son grabbed a knife and put it to his sister’s neck.” He was playing. His young, impressionable mind had absorbed brutality like a sponge. And now that’s how he plays. He tries to strangle, stab and cut the throats of his siblings. He thinks it’s just a game, and he wants to be like the grown-ups that were around him. So it was only natural that he would copy the things he’d seen, not knowing what it actually meant to do such things.
“It’s what they (ISIS) trained him to do.” She said. “I don’t know what to do.”
Without any resources to mental health professionals she is unsure how to help her children. The whole family probably is suffering and will suffer from PTSD, but I am not a psychologist. However, it doesn’t take much to realize that these people need more than blankets, clothes, food and refuge. They need a whole array of support if they are to recover from all that they have experienced.
“My family had to pay the thirty-five thousand dollars to buy us back,” the mother stood holding her toddler, her older children stood by her sides. The girl covered her head with her hood. The older boy wrapped an arm around his little brother who ironically wore a sweater that read “BKLYN 62.” Brooklyn is where I live. Thousands of miles from my home this little boy, in a Brooklyn sweater, has been pretending to kill his family. With the same sensitivity to the emotional state of this family, these exiles I took a few undirected portraits, hoping to catch on their faces all that they have been through.