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Yazidis of Iraq turn to truffles to make ends meet

Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq who have been persecuted by Islamic State militants, have turned to the sometimes dangerous job of searching for truffles for income. IEDs can be hidden in the fields. They earn about $8 on an average day for finding and selling about 6.5 pounds at the local market.

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  • ZACHARY GREEN:

    On a typical morning on Iraq's Mount Sinjar, Mata Mahmoud and his companions are hard at work…looking for truffles. Mahmoud and his friends are ethnic Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq who have been persecuted by Islamic State militants, who overran this region in 2014. Like many in his community, Mahmoud was displaced from his home.

  • MATA MAHMOUD:

    My house is in the hands of the Islamic State. They didn't leave anything for us. They destroyed and blew up our houses and now this is our only source of income. We have no salary, and we feed our families with this.

  • ZACHARY GREEN:

    Finding and digging up the truffles is difficult and dangerous work.

  • MATA MAHMOUD:

    There are lots of IEDs, the Islamic State has planted a lot. My friend was blown up by one over there in the west. The Islamic State is also shooting mortars and they land very close by.

  • ZACHARY GREEN:

    With his harvest in hand, every morning, Mahmoud and other Yazidis go to this local vegetable market to sell truffles to traders like this man, who will then ship them as far as Baghdad.

  • MESHO MUSSA:

    Today I have bought 700 kilos so far, and I hope to reach a ton. And by sunset I'll be done.

  • ZACHARY GREEN:

    On an average day, Mahmoud sells about three kilograms–or about six-and-a-half pounds of truffles, earning around 10,000 dinars–or roughly 8 US dollars. Despite the hardship and the danger, many Yazidis are still thankful for the work.

  • MESHO MUSSA:

    It's a blessing from God. These poor people don¹t have a dinar in their pocket and when they work from sunrise to sunset they make 50,000, 60,000, even 100,000. It's a gift from God.

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