Friday 22 September 2017

'World has abandoned Yazidi women to Isil slave markets'

Women hold a banner during a demonstration marking the first anniversary of Islamic State's surge on Yazidis of the town of Sinjar, in front of the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Reuters
Women hold a banner during a demonstration marking the first anniversary of Islamic State's surge on Yazidis of the town of Sinjar, in front of the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Reuters

Richard Spencer in Erbil

A YEAR after thousands of Yazidis were murdered around their historic homeland of Mount Sinjar by Isil jihadists, the woman who drew attention to her people's plight has accused the world of abandoning them to their fate.

In an interview to mark the anniversary of the killings and the capture and mass rape of Yazidi women, Vian Dakhil, Iraq's only Yazidi MP, who made a tearful plea to parliament to save the minority, said refugees were being forced to sell their few possessions to buy back girls from Isil's "slave markets".

Thousands of women, girls and children remain captive, despite the aerial bombardment of Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) positions by the US-led coalition.

"The world has forgotten us," she said at her family home in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Her own home in Sinjar town was destroyed by Isil.

"I know Sinjar was not the first town attacked by Isil, but it was the first to have a mass kidnap," she said.

"We have a thousand people that no one knows where they are - and yet we are totally forgotten."

Ms Dakhil said that when 250 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram there was a worldwide campaign to 'Bring Back Our Girls', but when she wrote to Michelle Obama to ask for help for Yazidi women, she received no reply.

"I have been to the United Nations security council three times and spoken there," she said. "Some people were crying. They applauded, then they said 'sorry', and 'goodbye'. I have been to the European Parliament six or seven times. 'Oh my God', they say, 'what a terrible story'. And then they do nothing."

The Kurdish-speaking Yazidis are regarded as infidels by Isil for their religion, which is derived from Zoroastrianism and involves worship of a 'Peacock Angel'. They were driven from Sinjar, on the borders of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region and the rest of Iraq, in the first week of August last year.

In total, two million people fled, and an estimated 450,000 Yazidis remain living rough in primitive refugee camps.

Shocked

Aerial photographs of thousands of Yazidis stranded in the summer heat last year on top of Mount Sinjar, where children and old people died of dehydration, shocked the world.

Isil's attacks, which briefly threatened Erbil, finally prompted US, British and Allied intervention. However, without foreign ground troops, the Yazidis remained vulnerable.

Kurdish forces had found 12 mass graves of Yazidis killed a year ago, Ms Dakhil said.

Isil openly encourages jihadists to force girls, even in prepubescence, into sexual servitude, justifying it in online jihadist literature by citing the treatment of captive infidel women in early Muslim conquests.

Ms Dakhil said she believed reports that a number of women were executed recently for refusing to agree to the jihadists' sexual demands.

The Kurdish regional government was originally unwilling to participate in the scheme to ransom women.

However, Ms Dakhil said it was now helping with money both for payments and to provide social services to the women, who are traumatised. Some 780 have now been bought back, but at least 2,000 are still captive.

Ms Dakhil said the longer-term solution was to increase the pace of the war against Isil by providing more weapons directly to the Kurds.

"There are many ways the world could help," she said.

"More air strikes, they could send the army, or more arms. We need humanitarian supplies. When the Yazidis do come back from Isil they have nothing." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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