A number of women from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, the central subjects of a critically acclaimed Swedish documentary, Sabaya, told The New York Times that they did not give informed consent to appear in the film. Three Yazidi women featured in the documentary, which chronicles the harrowing sexual enslavement of girls by ISIS, said they did not understand how the footage was going to be used. Three other women, including two doctor-advocates, had explicitly informed Hirori they did not want to appear in the film; their images were used anyway.
Hirori told the Times that he had captured recorded verbal consent from the women in 2019, and “physically mailed” written release forms after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The women said they received consent forms in English, a language they don’t understand, well after the film had been screened for audiences in January at Sundance, where it won a major award. Human Rights Watch, aware of the consent concerns, has declined to screen Sabaya at its own film festival this year. “The film raises a number of red flags for us relating to concerns that it could be victimizing victims,” said an associate director for the organization. “How can women who are being held in a safe house with no easy way out provide consent?”