Swallows swung through the ancient shrine and …

Dublin Core


Swallows swung through the ancient shrine and …


Neil Shea








POINT (3207972.98815127, 5008968.92838642)

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Swallows swung through the ancient shrine and while I looked for the devil they fluttered softly up to nests of shit and clay. You could hear nestlings there chirping out one-note songs. You could see in your mind the pie-wedge mouths, the little outstretched necks. I always lost the birds up in the blackness just below the ceiling, which is blacker for years of soot from sacred fires. Before I came to Lalesh, holiest place of the Yazidi people, I knew they were not Muslims or Christians or Hebrews but something else, and possibly older. Mostly though I knew them as victims. Of ISIS or Saddam, of the Arabs or even the Kurds. This country is hard on faith, and many here believe Yazidis worship the devil. So I checked. For hours I scanned details and gestures and tried the locks of many doors and here is a portion of my report. One: in the shrine-keeper's house where I was given a bed and fed heartily I could not locate Satan. Nor could Yuri, who was photographing everything. A later search of the images confirmed his absence. Two: in the sheikh's offer of tea and stories I saw no evil, and afterward in the courtyard where women wove brooms of green branches I concluded Satan was also not in the sweeping. Three: deep inside the shrine, in the cool vaults where mothers bent to kiss the shroud on the prophet's coffin, or to purify themselves or whisper to children, I found only echoes of churches and mosques, of every shrine and all their relics and the endless hopeful purse of lips. I looked and listened and touched the bright bolts of blessed cloth but in the end, nothing. Just a sound of hidden water, the scent of damp stone. This still, small boy standing barefoot in sunlight, watching swallows. #onassignment for @natgeo

#kurdistan #yazidi #lalesh #lalish #isis #nationalgeographic #faith #shorttrue #trueshort #iraq #instakurd #everydaymiddleeast @petergwin @kengeiger @yuri.kozyrev @hawrekhalid •• a series: #kurds2015





Neil Shea, “Swallows swung through the ancient shrine and …,” The InstaEssay Archive, accessed June 20, 2019, http://instaessayarchive.org/items/show/3653.