World Press Photo 2020

Portraits Stories Winner

As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) retreated from territory around Mosul in northern Iraq, thousands of former ISIS prisoners were liberated, many in severe states of trauma. The photographer took posed portraits of displaced Yazidi people and other minorities who had suffered human rights violations perpetrated by ISIS, in camps for displaced people in northern Iraq.

The Yazidi religion is monotheistic and can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamian and Abrahamic roots. Due to their unique beliefs, the Yazidi people were seen by the Sunnis of ISIS as "devil worshippers". When ISIS occupied ancestral Yazidi lands in northern Iraq in 2014, ISIS fighters massacred around 5,000 Yazidi men. Women and girls were abducted and forced into sexual slavery, and boys forced to train as child soldiers. Some 500,000 Yazidis were displaced. Many now live in refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Nineveh Governorate in Iraq.

Psychologist Jan Kizilhan, working in one such camp at a centre for people who survived the atrocities, points to the effects of this severe personal and cultural trauma. These include feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, tension, and a variety of physical illnesses.


Rezan, 11, who was kidnapped by ISIS in 2014 and freed in early 2019, at the Khanke IDP Camp in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, on April 20, 2019. PHOTO: © ADAM FERGUSON, AUSTRALIA, FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE


Fourteen-year-old Jitan, seen here in Khanke Village in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, on April 20, 2019, was kidnapped in 2014 and now speaks Arabic better than his native Kurdish. Several members of his family are still missing. PHOTO: © ADAM FERGUSON, AUSTRALIA, FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE


Madam Noora Ali Abbas sitting with her grandson Harreth, six, in their tent in Salamiyah IDP Camp 2, Nineveh, Iraq, on April 22, 2019. The 60-year-old says Harreth's father was taken by ISIS in 2015, but Harreth is stateless and unable to get an Iraqi government identity card because the authorities believe his father was an ISIS fighter. Madam Noora suffers from depression and anxiety, and does not like to let Harreth out of her sight. PHOTO: © ADAM FERGUSON, AUSTRALIA, FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE