Tears of Gold: Portraits of Yazidi, Rohingya, and Nigerian Women
December 18, 2023
| By Judy Golub
A Yezidi woman, former ISIS captive, paints a self-portrait. Photo credit: Spotnik

FoRB Women’s Alliance will note the publication of books from time to time that focus on issues relevant to women and FoRB. Tears of Gold by Hannah Rose Thomas, a British artist and human rights activist, will be published in February 2024 with publisher profits donated to relevant charities.

Tears of Gold features Thomas’ portraits of Yazidi women who escaped ISIS captivity, Rohingya women who fled violence in Myanmar, and Nigerian women who survived Boko Haram’s brutality, alongside their own words, stories, and self-portraits. A final chapter features portraits and stories of Afghan, Ukrainian, Uyghur, and Palestinian women.


“One of Hannah’s aims is to capture not only the courage and stoicism of the women who have suffered so much, but also the nobility, dignity, and extraordinary compassion that many of them manage to retain, despite their traumatic experiences. I very much hope that this beautiful book will help enable the Yazidi, Rohingya, and Nigerian women’s voices to be heard, as well as to highlight the issue of the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in general.”

HRH Prince Charles, prior to his accession as HM King Charles III


Her portraits, depicting women from three continents and three religions, are a visual testimony not only of war and injustice but also of humanity and resilience. Many of the women have suffered sexual violence; all have been persecuted and forcibly displaced on account of their faith or ethnicity.

Hannah Rose Thomas met these women in Iraqi Kurdistan, Bangladeshi refugee camps, and Northern Nigeria while organizing art projects to teach women how to paint their self-portraits as a way to reclaim their personhood and self-worth. She gives women their own voice both by creating a safe space for them to share their stories and by using her impressive connections to make sure their stories are heard in places of influence in the Global North.

Thomas uses techniques of traditional sacred art – early Renaissance tempera and oil painting and gold leaf – to convey the sacred value of each of these women in spite of all that they have suffered. This symbolic restoration of dignity is especially important considering the stigma surrounding sexual violence. Hannah’s work attests to the power of the arts as a vehicle for healing, remembering, inclusion, and dialogue.

Long after the news cameras have moved on to the next conflict, this book shines a spotlight on the ongoing work of healing and restoration in some of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities around the world.

Hannah Rose Thomas will speak on a panel on Tuesday, January 30th 1:30pm at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC. Later that day she will be signing copies of her book at 3pm in the IRF Summit bookstore.

Learn more about the book here.


Hannah Rose Thomas is a British artist and human rights activist. A Forbes 30 under 30, her work has been exhibited at the UK Houses of Parliament, European Parliament, the International Peace Institute in New York, Lambeth Palace, Westminster Abbey, and The Saatchi Gallery. Three of Thomas’ paintings of Yazidi women were chosen by HRH Prince Charles (now HM King Charles III) for his exhibition “Prince & Patron” in Buckingham Palace. She has been named a winner of Vogue’s Future Visionary award, and is a winner of the European Parliament’s Women’s Leadership Award. Tears of Gold was featured by Google Arts and Culture to mark the UN’s Official 75th Anniversary Program, “The Future Is Unwritten: Artists for Tomorrow.” Thomas is currently a UNESCO Art Lab for Human Rights and Dialogue PhD Scholar at the University of Glasgow.



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