By Dr. Amy L. Beam:
Nadia Murad’s mother and six of her brothers were shot and killed in mass executions when ISIS attacked her village of Kocho, Shingal, Iraq, August 15, 2014. The wife and child of her brother who survived six bullet wounds are still missing. Twenty-four-year-old Nadia Murad escaped her torturers.
Between 9,000 and 14,000 Yazidis were killed or kidnapped. There are still an estimated 3,700 Yazidis in captivity by ISIS. Most are women and girls being raped repeatedly in sexual slavery, sometimes while their toddlers watch in terror.
Nadia Murad’s pleas to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to rescue those still kidnapped have fallen on deaf ears.
In mid-September, 2016, the Iraqi Air Force dropped seven million leaflets over Mosul and areas held by ISIS warning that the push to liberate Mosul and rid Iraq of ISIS is imminent. Those Yazidis still held captive are being transferred to Syria and even Saudi Arabia and northern Africa where they may be permanently lost. Those who stay behind will be used and sacrificed as human shields by their ISIS captors who pledge to die fighting for their pathological, distorted Islamic ideology.
Yazidis’ pleas for financial assistance have now reached fever pitch as they race to free their loved ones before Mosul is taken. There are hundreds of captives who could be home in a week if only their families had the money to pay for their return. They already have contact with the person holding their loved one prisoner. They make the arrangements themselves; they just need money.
Every Yazidi family has a list of family members in the hands of ISIS or knows someone who has contact with a family member and is desperately trying to raise money. Many Yazidis talk by phone on a weekly basis to those family members held in captivity by ISIS.
Anyone who tries to return the kidnapped Yazidis must work secretively for fear of prosecution under anti-terrorism laws.
An informal world-wide network of private citizens continues to scramble for money and rescue the kidnapped Yazidis through intermediaries before the assault on Mosul begins, while government leaders of the free world stand deaf and dumb.
Nadia Murad first testified before the United Nations Security Council on December 16, 2015. She pleaded for the leaders of the world to help rescue the kidnapped Yazidi women, girls, and children being held captive by ISIS.
Nadia’s press coverage gained momentum. She went on a grueling world-wide tour to plead for help. Heads of State used their photo opportunities with Nadia for publicity and political gain.
After more than two years since Nadia was kidnapped, she is still pleading through her tears as if it had happened only yesterday. Why won’t her tears stop? Because not one single leader has responded to her plea to help free the kidnapped Yazidis.
Nadia has enlisted Amal Clooney, human rights attorney, who also addressed the United Nations. Clooney’s message reiterated the shame upon world leaders who have ignored the Yazidis’ pleas for help.
On September 16, 2016, Nadia Murad was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking for the UN’s Drugs and Crime body. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon honored Nadia in a special ceremony as he, too, held her hand for his photo opportunity . . . while Nadia kept pleading.
Did it gall Nadia to curb her frustration and stand respectfully next to this world leader whose public position is diametrically opposed to providing the necessary funds to rescue the kidnapped Yazidis? Nadia, herself, has repeatedly said she does not care about all the honors bestowed upon her. Her singular, unrelenting, urgent desire is to rescue the women, girls, and children. She speaks for all Yazidis whose plea is now at a shrill scream of urgency.
Ban Ki-Moon’s position on Nadia’s request is an unspeakable shame, defiantly supported by all the leaders of the world’s democracies.
On June 2, 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed the UN Security Council on sexual violence in conflict. He stated “It is estimated that the Yazidi community gave the Islamic State up to $45 million dollars in ransom payments in 2014 alone.”
It was irresponsible and inflammatory for the UN Secretary General to make such a preposterous claim. His wording was cunning and carefully chosen. The definition of “up to” a certain amount means anything that does not exceed that amount. Is $1 million dollars considered “up to” $45 million?
The Yazidi Affairs Office in Duhok, Kurdistan, was established to rescue the kidnapped Yazidis and help those who return from captivity. In the beginning, the office was paying approximately $3000 per person for rescues prior to the rescue. Later, the KRG began reimbursing families three to six months after their loved ones were rescued.
Yazidi Affairs director, Khairi Bozani, sent an open letter to Ban Ki-Moon challenging his statement as “too vague and uncertain.” He also stated that Yazidi officials and community members have called on Ki-moon repeatedly, pleading with him to save them from ISIS shootings, beheadings, and kidnappings.
“After all these crimes were committed against Yazidis and their calls for help [remained unanswered], we would like to ask you, have you done anything for them other than expressing your concern about the fate of the minority?” Bozani questioned.
On November 3, 2014, the Kurdistan government said that it had purchased the freedom of 234 Yazidi captives from ISIS in return for $1.5 million paid to intermediaries. This was the first large group of Yazidis rescued.
Escapes and planned rescues in 2014 probably did not exceed 400 Yazidis. At an average cost of $5,000 per person, this sum would not exceed $2.3 million dollars, especially considering that in the beginning many Yazidis escaped without money being paid to any intermediary.
The UN Secretary General ‘s claim of $45 million in payments made by Yazidis in 2014 alone is willfully deceitful.
Ban Ki-Moon’s speech inflamed undeserved anger at the Kurdistan government. Yazidis who had not read his U.N. speech demanded to know what happened to the “missing” $45 million dollars.
There never was a pot of $45 million dollars, but the lie went viral.
Ban Ki-Moon’s threat was clear: paying money to rescue the kidnapped Yazidis was tantamount to funding terrorism and would not be tolerated.
Those who have returned from ISIS captivity mostly planned and paid for their escape themselves with the help of their family members who are free. Intermediaries buy the captive women and children, then allow them to contact their families in Kurdistan or elsewhere to negotiate a price for their safe return. Intermediaries who are caught get executed by ISIS. So transferring them to safety is dangerous and costly.
In March 2016, a small delegation had multiple meetings in London with UK MPs. It included American human rights activist Amy L. Beam, Yazidi commander Haider Shesho, and Saloa Khalaf Rasho, an 18-year-old Yazidi girl who had been held captive for eight months by ISIS. Their priority request was for help to free those women and children remaining captive.
That and other recommendations were presented the same week to the UK House of Commons for consideration.
Rt. Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP who sits on the UK’s Intelligence Committee stated the “United Kingdom policy is not to pay ransoms to kidnappers either directly or indirectly.”
On May 11, UK MP Tobias Ellwood, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State gave an official response to the request for help. It stated in no uncertain terms:
“Ransom payments to terrorists are illegal under both UK and International law because it amounts to financing terrorism. This includes any payment where there is reasonable cause to suspect that the money, or other property, may be used for the purposes of terrorism. In terrorist kidnap cases, payment of a ransom to an intermediary could well result in at least some of the funds being used for the purposes of terrorism.”
Time is running out for the kidnapped Yazidis.
Dr. Amy L. Beam is Executive Director of “Amy, Azadi and Jiyan” (AAJ) humanitarian organization registered in Kurdistan. She is a researcher, writer, and human rights activist for Yazidis and Kurds in the Middle East. Since ISIS attacked Shingal in August 2014, Beam has assisted the displaced Yazidis, especially the women, girls, and children who have been rescued from ISIS captivity. She is currently writing a book on the Yazidi genocide and continuing to collect eye witness testimonies. Follow her on her public Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmyLBeam . Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org