October 20, 2021


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The producer of ‘Sabaya’ says that the Yazidi women have agreed to stay in the film

8 min read

“Sabaya” producer Antonio Rousseau Merenda, responding to a bombing article published in the New York Times on Monday, claimed that many Yazidi women featured in the Sundance Award-winning documentary never agreed to be in the film.

Merenda said in a statement on Thursday evening that she and director Hogir Hirori had received written, oral or pictorial consent from everyone present at “Sabaya”, as well as from the legal guardian of the young woman in the film.

Merenda also provided speeches by one of the main female protagonists of “Sabaya” and a Syrian Kurdish filmmaker who worked with Hirori. He presented a letter from the Swedish Film Institute, which funded the documentary.

A fearless rescue team follows “Sabaya” at the risk of their lives to save women abducted and sex slaves by ISIS. It starred in this year’s Sundance and won the World Cinema Division of Management Award. The picture was sold by London-headquartered doc expert Dougoff.

The New York Times article claims that the women in the film received consent forms electronically and in English – a language they did not understand – almost two years after the film was released. The director told the Times that he “initially recorded verbal consent from the women” and planned to sign their written releases during his next trip but was delayed due to the epidemic.

Merenda said in her speech that “Sabaya” is “a Swedish production following Swedish law”, which states that “written, oral and pictorial consent are equally valid.” He added that the releases were “delivered in both Arabic (the official language of both Syria and Iraq) and English.”

“The response from the women we see in the film is overwhelming with gratitude and admiration for expressing the atrocities they have suffered,” the producer said. He also mentioned that Hogir himself was a “refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan married to a Kurdish refugee from Syria” and said that “she still maintains regular contact with all the main female characters in the film.”

The main female protagonist of the film’s statement, which was translated from Kurdish and remained anonymous for security reasons, the director said. [them] Who he was and he made and said a documentary [them] That’s what it’s going to be about. “

“I gladly signed the consent forms of my own free will. No one forced me to consent to anything,” the statement said. , One in English and one in Arabic.

Kurdish female filmmaker Guevara Namar, who is now based in Germany and has worked with Hirori in some parts of the shooting, said a woman “quickly asked not to be in the film” and agreed to stay in the film on condition that she had a face mask. “So he stays with the niqab. And thus it appears in the picture.

Neymar said the woman is currently in Iraq where she “started going on TV and telling her stories and giving interviews.”

“I would never accept being part of a story or creating a story where women are being oppressed again,” Neymar said.

The Swedish Film Institute states that the producer and director of “Sabaya” conducted “both shooting and follow-up in an accurate and professional manner,” and that “participants gave their consent, in writing or orally, which is the same situation under Swedish law.”

The institute said, “They responded to the objections of some participants with a small part of the film and immediately made the necessary adjustments,” the institute said. ”

Here is a full statement from Guevara Namar and The Swedish Film Institute, as well as Antonio Rousseau Merenda, as well as the main character in the film:

Applicable to:

Director Hagir Hirori and I received written, oral or illustrated consent from everyone present in our Sabaya film (as well as from the legal guardian of the featured young woman). Sabaya is a Swedish product that, according to Swedish law and Swedish law: written, oral and illustrated consent is equally valid. Consent forms were provided in Arabic (the official language of both Syria and Iraq) and English.

Sabaya is the story of the Yazidi Home Center, where two male and notable female intruders who work with them save women and girls at the risk of their lives who would otherwise be tied up and lead horrific daily lives. It is a film that gives a voice to the silent and helps to give these women new opportunities in life.

The response we have received from the women we have seen in the film has been filled with gratitude and appreciation for revealing the atrocities they have suffered. Hogir (whom I should add is a refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan married to a Kurdish refugee from Syria) still maintains regular contact with all the main female characters in the film.

Please see the following statements from a Syrian Kurdish filmmaker who worked with Sabaya’s main female protagonist and Hogir Hirori. A statement from the Associated Swedish Film Institute.

Antonio Russo Merenda
Producer, Sabaya

* Some of the names below have had to be revised due to security concerns.

The main female protagonist of the film (translated from Kurdish):

My name is ___.

As long as I knew Hogir I thought of him as my big brother. I first met him in Syria, where he told me what he was doing and working and showed me pictures of his own family. We were several girls who were rescued from ISIS. Hogir introduces himself to all of them. He explained to us who he was and he made a documentary and told us what it was going to be. I gave my consent there and then, and did not see any other girls objecting to taking pictures during the whole filming process. He even lets us try to take pictures with his camera. Hogir then accompanied us to the Syria-Iraq border where he gave us his phone number and asked us to contact him if we had any questions or concerns. We all told him we agreed on everything and we had no worries.

Many of us girls follow Hogi’s status update about the movie on Facebook. They commented with his post: “Well, brother!”.

I gladly signed the consent form in my own will. No one forced me to agree to anything. I think making this film is important for all of us who have been rescued and for the girls who are still being abducted, so that the rest of the world can see what happened to our Yazidis. It is a film about the reality of what we have given.

From the beginning, there has been an organization that has intervened. The woman who is the leader of the organization and her team has tried to contact us. The girls in the film are telling us not to sign any agreement, not to participate in the film, not to let Hogir do our filming and try to persuade us not to participate in this project. But I didn’t listen to any of them because I made my own decisions and I believe in Hogger and what he’s doing. But I don’t understand why these people in this organization are so interested in preventing us from participating in this film; They are still calling me and trying to manipulate me to change my mind. But I don’t have to listen to them or anyone else. I have a mind of my own. And, none of these people have the right to say no to participating in this photo, or signing a consent form – they are not my boss. How is it their business? Is this organization interested in shutting us down? Why are they saying, “Don’t participate in this movie”?

I read the information on the consent forms and signed them. We received one in English and one in Arabic. Others were present with me when I signed them. I’m fine with everything in the film, and it’s okay for me to show it in any part of the world. It is very important that this film is made about our Yazidi girls and the reality we have come through so that everyone can see what has happened to us, so we can create awareness about what is happening. It is not fiction, acting or lying. All of this actually happened to us – it’s about our real life. And I’m very happy about that.

Guevara Neymar’s statement:

I’m going down Guevara. I am a Syrian Kurdish filmmaker. I’m in Berlin. Since 2011, I have been involved in many projects in Syria. That’s the main thing I’m working on. I proudly joined Hogir on one of his shooting tours while he was making Sabaya. I went with him to the family home and Al-Hole camp. Mainly two stories that I was for two women, ___ and ___ [names redacted]. I remember ___ he asked not to be in the movie early or if he would be in the movie that he wanted to keep his face covered. So he stays with the niqab. And thus it appears in the picture. That’s how he came to film. And he was worried about his life in Iraq. And in fact what we found out later is when he went to Iraq himself and he found out that there was no risk he started going on TV and started telling his stories and giving interviews. So he was worried while he was in Syria and we didn’t show him the face. And she … it changed for her later.

The other story was ___, which is shown more at the beginning of the film. And it was like ___ … he agreed to stay in the movie. And he was giving a lot of interviews even when he was inside Syria. So it means to us that he has been released. And these are at least two stories that this film is very honest about, very morally and I myself, I would never agree to be part of a story or create a story where women are being oppressed again. So I am ready to share my experience. I’m ready to defend it. I’m here to support the crew, Hogir and Antonio.

Statement from the Swedish Film Institute:

Applicable to whom
The Swedish Film Institute focuses on the workings of documentary filmmakers, which are conducted both legally and ethically correctly and professionally. About Sabaya Films, the producer and director have a long experience working with documentaries and their moral compass has never been questioned before. Conversely: They have built a high level of confidence over the years.
From our point of view they conducted both shooting and follow-up for Sabaya in an accurate and professional manner and the participants gave their consent, written or oral, which has the same status under Swedish law. They responded to the objections of a few participants with small parts in the film and made the necessary adjustments immediately.
It is our understanding that the filmmakers have worked as professionally as ever, using all the necessary respect to the participants in this complex situation. Finally, we would like to emphasize the importance of the content of the film and its role in creating the necessary awareness about the situation of Yazidi women.

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