Stories By Paulien Bakker

Portrait of an Artist in an Endless War

After her father is murdered and ISIS rampages her hometown, a 22-year-old art student tries desperately to pick up the pieces.

Meet a Kurdish Commander Who Stares Down ISIS Every Day

For hundreds of years, Hussein Yazdanpana’s family has fought for freedom from an endless array of enemy forces. But today’s battle is truly one for the ages.

An English Teacher’s Escape from ISIS

After the Islamic State overruns his hometown, a militiaman turned educator makes a harrowing decision to bring his family to freedom.

The Grandchildren of Genocide

A teen orphaned by the Rwandan genocide makes the heartbreaking choice to abandon her own children. Years later, an unshakable brotherly bond keeps her bruised but determined...

The Brotherly Barbers of Baghdad

Saleh and Thamir cut hair side by side for thirty years, through war with Iran and America, and endless sectarian strife. But in today’s Iraq, it’s every man for himself.

A Cruel Education for Baghdad’s Toughest Teacher

One steadfast school director defied the conventions of Saddam’s iron-fisted rule to create an artistic haven for children—but faced her toughest test after the dictator’s...

Baghdad’s Biggest Loser

After surviving a car bombing and a freakish workplace injury, a twenty-something Iraqi resolves to lose over 300 pounds while dreaming of a life without war.

The Lonely Psychiatrist of Sadr City

In a deadly corner of Baghdad, nearly every resident has witnessed the horrors of war. One dedicated doctor risks his life—and his own sanity—to help those who need it most.