A brief encounter

A brief encounter


With piercing eyes gazing out from under a shock of blonde hair, a young Yazidi girl rests at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria.

Reuters photographer Youssef Boudlal captured the arresting image as he documented members of the minority Yazidi sect fleeing Islamic State militants who have seized much of northern Iraq.

. FISHKHABOUR, Iraq. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Boudlal saw the young Yazidi girl with her mother as they waited for local Kurdish aid to arrive at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour.

They were escaping violence in Sinjar, one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view Yazidis as "devil worshippers" and tell them to convert to Islam or face death.

The threat to the minority, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, was one reason cited by U.S. President Barack Obama when he launched U.S. air strikes against Islamic State in parts of Iraq earlier this month.

. FISHKHABOUR, Iraq. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

The girl whom Boudlal photographed was part of a group sitting at the rubbish-strewn border crossing, in temperatures of 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

Boudlal documented scenes of suffering as they waited.

In the image above, a Yazidi boy mourns the death of his father. According to the family, the 40-year-old man died due to ill health while walking from Sinjar mountains to re-unite with them at the border.

. FISHKHABOUR, Iraq. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Other family members mourn at the border crossing of Fishkhabour, which lies in Dohuk, part of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

The area is now home to many displaced Yazidis, who have paid a heavy price for Islamic State's ambition to redraw the map of the Middle East.

"I was drawn to her wild beauty in this terrible situation."
Youssef Boudlal, Reuters Photographer

I remember the scene well. It was the day that I arrived at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of Fishkhabour.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes were struggling in temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), waiting patiently for local Kurdish aid.

At first, I focused my camera on a group of women sitting on the ground, but when I turned away I saw this little girl.

I took one shot of her there and as she saw me, she gave me a smile. I captured another frame of her with her mother.

I was drawn to her wild beauty in this terrible situation. There is a kind of intensity, distress and sadness in her eyes.

I know that she is 6 years old because I asked her mother, but unfortunately I didn’t ask for her name. The family was coming from the Iraqi town of Sinjar, fleeing Islamic State militants.

It was really sad not only to see this girl, but also to see the hundred others who were dirty, exhausted, and sitting amongst garbage in the heat.

I have been in Iraq for over a week now. It’s my first time in the country, and though I have been to many conflict zones, nothing compares to seeing these displaced people.

I wonder what their state of mind can be as they walk for miles and hours through the mountains with a few of their belongings.

I would be very curious to see the blonde girl who I photographed again. I wonder what will become of her. I wonder what will become of all the others.