The (back)Story – The Vash

I’m starting a little series of blog entries on the different people groups and factions in Story. I want to start with the Vash for a lot of reasons. I like the Vash. I like their backstory and I feel for them. I connect with them. I haven’t lived the life that they’ve had to live, but I’m heavily invested into the lives of many people who have been forced to live a life similar to the Vash.

The Vash are heavily persecuted. They are judged as “witches” or “devil worshippers” and deemed “lesser” by many other groups (especially the Chish). They are enslaved and displaced. When all they want is just to live their lives…to raise their children in peace.

I’ve had the honor to travel to and work in Iraq a lot over the past 6 years or so. I’ve made some amazing friends across all the different religious and ethnic groups in Iraq (and there are tons). But I’ve never felt more connected to anyone than I have with the Yazidi people. When ISIS rose up in Syria / Iraq in 2014, they launched an organized (and effective) campaign of genocide against the Yazidi people. Yazidis were mass murdered. Yazidis, especially young girls and women, were enslaved. Yazidis were displaced from their homes, and many of them are still displaced 6 years after.

I have sat in tents and listened to the heartbreaking stories of girls who were kidnapped and sold as sex slaves, some for as little as for $20. Some of these girls were 8 years old when they were taken. Only 8 years old when they were beaten and raped. One told of being treated as a dog…having to eat and drink from bowls on the ground. Some were held for years. Thousands are still missing today.

Most of the world does not know who the Yazidi people are…but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of them, that I don’t pray for them and long to be with my dear friends at a variety of refugee camps in Iraq.

The Vash people in Story share a lot with the Yazidi people in Iraq. Creating the stories of the Vash give me an opportunity to pass on some of the stories that I’ve heard first-hand sitting in tents in the Iraq mountains or walking through the ancient Yazidi temple at Lalish.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every Yazidi person is a righteous victim. I’ve had Yazidi men try VERY hard to con me or steal from me and I’ve had Yazidi women literally throw live chickens at me, jealous of the fact that they got a smaller chicken than their neighbor in the tent next door. And similarly, the Vash have their share of scoundrels and hooligans. But on the whole, their actions come from a place of desperation and their culture, in general, is one of hospitality and friendship. And some of the most heroic people I’ve ever met are Yazidis in Iraq who have risked everything to serve and to save others, of many ethnic/religious backgrounds. And thus, there are some really great heroes (and heroines) among the Vash.

For most Americans, Iraq brings to mind images of war and violence. But for me, Iraq means friendship and love. You see, in life we usually find what we’re looking for. And most Americans that have gone to Iraq went as soldiers to make war, and that’s what they found. And those are the stories that most people hear. I’ve gone to Iraq for very different reasons and found some of the most incredible friends. I hope that all of you get the opportunity to go to Iraq some day…to enjoy the amazing history, to sample the incredible food and to encounter the most generous hospitality anywhere in the world. And to find friends that you never knew existed.

– Tom