FIFTH ANNIVERSARY YEZIDI GENOCIDE; “WE NEED ACTION, NOT JUST WORDS”; IRWIN COTLER, FORMER MINISTER OF JUSTICE.
Doris Strub Epstein
Hundreds gathered together in front of Queens Park under a blazing sun, on Sunday, August 4th, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Yezidi genocide. Many of the participants were themselves survivors of ISIS’s genocidal attack on this non Muslim, ancient people , indigenous to northern Iraq.
ISIS shot, beheaded and burned alive over 10,000 men and boys. Approximately seven thousand women and girls were taken captive and used as sex slaves, bought and sold in slave markets. Young boys were trained to be jihadis and suicide bombers. In just three months, more than 800,000 people from millennia-old communities were forced from their homes. All Yezidis were targeted. Of those that fled, hundreds died of starvation and dehydration on Mount Sinjar.
The KRG (Kurdistan Regional government) peshmergas, the Kurdish forces that promised to protect them, stood aside and allowed ISIS entry. They refused to give weapons to the Yezidis to defend themselves, and, said Sheikh Mirza Ismail, Chair, Yezidi Human Rights Organization International, many were killed by Kurds.
According to Ismail, the Yezidi genocide was preplanned by the KRG, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He claims there was an agreement between the ISIS leaders and President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region – Masoud Barzani. The KRG was to hand over the Yezidis to ISIS and in return they would not attack Kirkuk or the complicit Arab states. ISIS agreed to accept an Islamic State of Kurdistan under Barzani.
Currently, wrote Geoffrey Clarfield in the National Post, former members of ISIS in Iraq have recently joined the KRG as an armed fighting group .
Although the Trudeau government has brought in more than fifty thousand Syrians, less than 1200 Yezidis have come with government assistance. Ismail, has given documented, detailed evidence numerous times to government officials in both Ottawa and Washington, but Ahmed Hussen, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister, has ignored repeated requests for a face to face meeting. Despite publicly declaring that one of his top priorities is to bring the Yezidi survivors to Canada, Mr. Hussen has committed to bringing in only 1200 of these most vulnerable refugees – Syrian Christians, Mandaen, Bahai, and only a portion of that number are Yezidis.
The persecution and suffering of the Yezidi people continues , even after the defeat of ISIS. More than 400,000 are currently languishing in camps in Northern Iraq, where they are abused by the Muslim authorities in charge, denied food and medicine. Daily they risk their lives fleeing to Greece via the Aegian Sea on tube boats. Since December more than 40 have drowned. Majid Abdal who lives now in Toronto, lost his cousins; five children and their parents.
"They cannot go home because their houses were destroyed and or booby trapped", said Ismail. If there was any justice within the UN international community, they would have ordered Barzani and his KRG officials to the International Criminal Court for tactical betrayal of the Yezidi people."
Although ISIS is defeated and holds no territory, they continue their terror attacks on the Yezidi communities. Presently they are waging a campaign of burning their farms so that the few remaining Yezids still in their homeland, will have nothing to eat. The KRG claim they have been unable to stop them, nor have they arrested the perpetrators.
The enslavement of Yazidi women by ISIS members continues in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, reports Clarfield. There are still 3,000 missing. He writes, "Yezidi girls and boys have been trafficked and sold to slave traders in Turkey, who then harvest their organs for illegal transplants to sick patients. the children do not usually survive the operations."
Yezids in the UN refugee camps are terrified to identify themselves as Yezidi to the authorities They pretend to be Muslims, because most of their fellow inmates are former ISIS supporters. Also because the staff are either Kurdish or Arab speakers who have a long-time hatred of Yezidis.
Speaker after speaker at the memorial, organized by the Mozuud human rights group,, recounted the horrors of the attacks. But no one except Ismail ,mentioned the complicity of the Kurds and other Arab speaking Muslims and that this is the Yezidis’ 74th genocide at the hands of their Muslim neighbours.
No one mentioned the lack of political will that the Canadian government has shown in the rescue of the non Muslim survivors. Only MP Peter Kent praised the lone vocal support of MP Michelle Rempel. He also criticized the government for not doing enough to combat terrorism.
Keynote speaker, Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice, now Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human rights, noted that "not one genocidal perpetrator has been brought to justice." He urged Canada to take the lead in an international tribunal.
Although he told the audience "we need action not just words," he too omitted calling out the government’s lack of action and identification of the Muslim, non ISIS perpetrators.
Sheikh Ismail has these requests for the Canadian government: help find the 3,000 Yezidis hidden by ISIS families in Syria, Iraq and Turkey; bring the perpetrators to justice; help establish an autonomous region for Yezidis and other non Muslims in their homeland in Northern Iraq ; oversee the demining of Yezidi communities and help with reconstruction; rescue the Yezidis stranded in Turkey, Syria and Greece and enable their resettlement in the US, Canada , Australia and Europe.
For Jews, these victims of a barbaric genocide, who are abandoned by the world, strikes a painful, familiar chord. They evoke the anguish of the Jews of the thirties threatened by the Nazi terror. Then too, the world was silent. They too were trapped with nowhere to find refuge. Jews were quick to respond, Soon after the initial attack by ISIS, Torontonian, Renanah Gemeiner formed Canadian Jews and Friends of Yezidis.
Geoffrey Clarfield: "As Canadians it is our moral responsibility … while determining what more we can do to stop this ongoing annihilation of the Yezidi (people)."