By Dr. Amy L. Beam:
Human rights advocate and author of forthcoming book “The Last Yezidi Genocide”;
Founder and Executive Director, AAJ humanitarian organization in Kurdistan, Iraq
The Yezidis are a non-Muslim religious minority who were brutally attacked in Shengal, Iraq, by the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) on August 3 and 15, 2014. The entire population of 400,000 was displaced and fled to the safety of Kurdistan. Forty thousand left Iraq as refugees. The rest are living in dire conditions in tents, trailers, and unfinished buildings nearly three years later.
More than 10,000 Yezidis were barbarically killed or captured by ISIS because of their religion. All those captured were forced to convert to Islam.
- Most males 16 and older who refused to convert to Islam were beheaded, hanged, or shot.
- Boys aged 5 – 15 were sent to jihadi training as ISIS soldiers and forced to be suicide bombers.
- Children aged 3 – 8 were snatched from their mothers and sold to Arab couples to raise as Muslim.
- Old women were executed or used as laborers.
- Females aged nine and older were beaten, raped, and repeatedly sold as sex slaves. Approximately 2700 are still being held prisoner.
The Yezidis’ first appeal is to help free the captive women and children. They also need forensic teams to identify the bones of their loved ones in the mass graves.
ISIS was created by former Saddam Hussein Sunni Arabs in Iraq. They recruited an additional 30,000 members with their families from over 80 countries to their extremist pathological Islamic ideology. Even when ISIS is defeated militarily in Iraq, their ideology will remain a threat.
Yezidis want the choice between two options: asylum in a safe country or the return to their homeland of Shengal (Sinjar in Arabic) and the Nineveh plain, a disputed territory in Iraq, adjacent to Kurdistan.
Pass H.R. 379 Yezidi Justice Act to Grant Asylum to Religious Minorities from Iraq
At least 75% of Yezidis want to leave Iraq. Especially the most traumatized groups need asylum. These include:
- survivors who have escaped from ISIS captivity, rape, or military camps
- those who have missing or murdered family members, and
- interpreters and others who risked their lives working for the US Army and whose houses were targeted and destroyed for helping America.
But make no mistake, all Yezidis are unsafe in Iraq and request asylum based on being a persecuted ethno-religious minority. Even if asylum does not provide financial support, local sponsorship can be found in America if the Yezidis can be granted visas to enter the country. Congress should pass H.R. 379 Justice for Yezidis Act without delay.