Review: Hogir Horiri's 'Sabaya' Exposes Plight of the Yazidi

by Noe Kamelamela

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 30, 2021

A woman with her child in Syria's Al-Hol camp the mostdangerous camp in the MiddleEast. As seen inSabaya directed by Hogir Hirori
A woman with her child in Syria's Al-Hol camp the mostdangerous camp in the MiddleEast. As seen inSabaya directed by Hogir Hirori  (Source:MTV Documentary Films)

"Sabaya '' is the third in a trilogy of documentaries from Kurdish-Swedish filmmaker Hogir Horiri regarding the plight of the Yazidi in Northern Iraq. Where the second film, "The Deminer," showcased one fearless and determined Kurdish colonel, and "The Girl Who Saved My Life" widely profiled Yazidi refugees fleeing the Islamic State (also known as Daesh), "Sabaya" — a term used for female slaves — stays centered amongst a group of Yazidis attempting to free fellow Yazidi women from slavery from Daesh terrorists. For most Americans who are clueless about what's been happening in the Middle East, this film should serve as a reminder of why our country attempted to stop ISIS in 2014 and has remained part of the Global Coalition Against Daesh since then.

Slavery is bad, and absent the ability to actually bring a camera into a Daesh compound, viewers are assured of that by the slow recovery of some of the rescued women and children. Sex is also part of the slavery for some of the women who are brave enough to speak about it on camera, as well as those who have children who may need to be returned to their Daesh fathers. It should be enough to say that slavery is awful and not have to prove it, but those few moments of healing and sadness are scattered throughout in such a way to provide a firsthand account instead of the secondhand accounts of rescuers. Motivated by their relative success and how frustratingly slow each operation is, they attempt their most ambitious mission of infiltration with Yazidi men and women moving into a dangerous camp.

The folks featured in "Sabaya" are not military leaders with the resources of a country or a coalition behind them. These men and women have nowhere near the same budget as even a small town police department in the States. And yet, with phone calls, texts, a few cars, a little bit of housing, and volunteers, they manage to plan and execute missions. Horiri started filming before this tiny crew of Yazidi men, women and children began dreaming of being able to do slightly more than freeing one woman at a time. It is possible that finding each Sabaya will take longer than the three short years it took for Iraq to declare victory over the Islamic State.


"Sabaya" premieres in theaters on July 30th.

Noe Kamelamela is a reader who reads everything and a writer who writes very little.