One of the most incredible viewing experiences of the year is Kurdish-Swedish filmmaker Hogir Hirori’s Sabaya, a documentary that, without sensationalizing the painfully dangerous moments, portrays the rescue operation of women held captive by Isis. The movie is the last of three feature documentaries in which Hirori portrays the conflict in the Middle East and its consequences.
The documentary follows an organisation that helps Yazidi women who have been abducted by Isis to be sex slaves or “sabayas” at the al-Hol camp. The leader of the organisation, Mahmud, has dedicated himself and his life to the rescue operation. His wife Sihar, mother Zahra and the rest of his family take care of the rescued women and girls before they return home.
The trauma and psychological distress of the rescued women is crushing. What adds to the agony, is that not all the families of the rescued women accept the children who were born in captivity and are fathered by men belonging to Isis.
Isis is constantly around the corner. Rescuers are shot at; their villages are set on fire. Yet they continue their work. The display of bravery is profound. Some of the greatest acts of heroism in the movie are demonstrated by the former sabayas, who with incredible composure infiltrate themselves back to al-Hol to rescue others.
A scandal broke out in the autumn of 2021, when The New York Times released an article, which questioned whether Hirori had obtained consent from the women in the film. After the allegations, Hirori travelled back to the region to ensure once more, that the women in the film were in it willingly.
Kati Juurus (translated by Milla Sairanen)