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Shireen Khudeda: From Captivity to College Graduation

June 5, 2024

DUHOK, Kurdistan Region of Iraq — The Coalition for Just Reparations (C4JR) congratulates Shireen Khudeda, a Yazidi woman who survived ISIS, for her graduation from the American University of Kurdistan (AUK) in Duhok on Sunday. Shireen was held captive by ISIS for three years before her rescue in 2017. KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani presented her with the “Honor of Resilience” award.

Shireen’s journey embodies the triumph of the human spirit over unimaginable crimes. Born into the Yazidi community in Sinjar, Iraq, Shireen’s childhood was filled with the warmth of family and the richness of tradition. However, in 2014, the peaceful rhythm of her life was shattered when ISIS militants invaded her village of Hardan.

Captured along with thousands of other Yazidis, Shireen found herself living a nightmare of captivity and brutality. Separated from her loved ones, she endured years of horror at the hands of her captors. But amid the darkness, a flicker of hope burned within her.

With unwavering determination, Shireen seized an opportunity to escape. Risking her life, she embarked on a perilous journey to freedom, navigating treacherous terrain and evading capture. Her courage and resilience sustained her through the darkest moments, propelling her towards a new chapter of life.

Upon regaining her freedom, Shireen faced the daunting task of rebuilding her life. The scars of her ordeal ran deep, but with the support of her community, she embarked on a journey of healing and renewal.

In a remarkable testament to her resilience, Shireen pursued her education and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the American University of Kurdistan in May 2024. Her graduation symbolised not only her academic achievement, but also – most importantly – her determination to overcome the obstacles that stood in her way.

Equally determined to turn her pain into purpose, Shireen resolved to become a voice for her people. As a member of the Yazidi Survivors Network (YSN), Survivors Voices Network, and the Coalition for Just Reparations (C4JR), she is a tireless advocate for justice and accountability for the atrocities committed against the Yazidi community.

Today, Shireen stands as a symbol of resilience and hope: a beacon of light in the darkness of adversity. Her journey from captivity to advocacy serves as a powerful reminder that no matter how insurmountable the obstacles may seem, the human spirit is capable of transcending even the darkest of times.

As we celebrate Shireen’s triumph over adversity, let us also honor the resilience and strength of the Yazidi community. Together, let us stand in solidarity with survivors like Shireen, ensuring that their voices are heard and their stories never forgotten. For in their courage and perseverance lies the promise of a brighter tomorrow, where justice, peace, and hope prevail. Congratulations, Shireen, and thank you.

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