In 1988, when Kavout was just 3 years old, she and her family fled the Iraqi government’s chemical bombardments of the Kurdish north. They walked for several days and nights through the mountains to reach Turkey, where they lived for three years in a tent that blew away in high winds and in constant fear of the Turkish government crackdowns.
Eventually Kavout’s family were granted asylum in France, and she grew up in Toulouse. “I love the way they live in France. It’s a really mixed culture in all levels.” In 2013 however, she was drawn back to Iraqi Kurdistan, wanting to play a part in the reconstruction of her homeland.
Kavout is passionately French and Kurdish – one of many young people here trying to balance complex and often competing identities. When the frustrations of daily life become too much, she goes running in Sami Abdul Rahman Park, where people from all sections of Kurdish society come to exercise in the cool of the evening. “I see all kinds of people, covered and uncovered.”
Kavout works hard to balance her day job in the government with helping charities like Rise Foundation in her spare time. When she visits the Syrian and IDP refugees, the sights and smells take her back to her earliest memories in the Turkish camps – of rats, heat, dust and open sewage. “I tell them not to lose hope – I was once where they are, and as terrible as it is now, they will come through it.”