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Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Dec 11, 2019 10:26 pm

How Yazidi Women Are
Recovering From ISIS


When they fled they fled in cars, babies piled on the laps of children piled on the laps of women, a nesting doll of family members careening away from the only place they’d ever known. The cars might not seem worth noting, but their very existence made these families luckier than most; others from their village were forced to brave the mountain dark by foot. In August of 2014, the entire population of a religion was on the run from a jihadist militant group that wanted to kill and enslave them. How could they have known then that running would be the easy part?

For two days and two nights after she left, 36-year-old Fardouse did not sleep. She and her four young children had been in those cars as they zoomed away from Sinjar, a town in western Iraq where her family, part of a religious minority called the Yazidis, had lived for generations. Now they were staying with other refugees in a local middle school a few hours east in Duhok. She hadn’t heard from her husband Khider since they’d parted ways in Sinjar; he had chosen to stay behind to face ISIS. Several days later, when they were finally reunited, Fardouse realized how fortunate she was: the wives of 5,000 other Yazidi men were not so lucky.

Fardouse is one of an estimated 500,000 Yazidis displaced by ISIS’s short but brutal reign over parts of Syria and Iraq. Like many of her fellow refugees, she struggles with mental health issues stemming from the trauma she experienced. “I always had a headache and wasn’t feeling well,” Fardouse tells me through a translator of her first few months at Khanke refugee camp. “Coming from a big house to live in one tent, it's very difficult.” She says she was overthinking and not sleeping, and struggling to come to terms with the fact that she would likely never return to Sinjar, which the Islamic State had all but destroyed in its attempts to commit genocide against the Yazidi people

Due to the overwhelming number of displaced people across Iraq, psychological treatment isn’t always easily available, but Fardouse has found an outlet with the Free Yezidi Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that runs a women's center at Khanke Camp. At the facility, situated across from a UNICEF-run primary school on the edge of the camp, women like Fardouse can learn everything from knitting to yoga to stress-management breathing techniques. There are Arabic and computer seminars, as well as a sewing class where women can create their own clothes to sell.

Aside from the center’s many classes, the Free Yezidi Foundation also seeks to destigmatize trauma across the camp, going tent to tent to teach families that what they’re feeling is normal.

“We introduce ourselves and say we’re here from the Yezidi Foundation to help normalize trauma after the 2014 genocide,” says Hala Haji, a translator and coordinator at the foundation. “We sit with them and we explain about trauma and we teach them some specific techniques for handling it. We have butterfly hug, we have breathing exercises, or how to support a person when you see someone is feeling sad and alone.”

    “Coming from a big house to live in one tent, it's very difficult.”
Haji says she’s seen first-hand the difference this can make in the lives of the women in the camp. She recalled one woman who was attempting suicide up to three times a week; after 11 sessions with the Foundation, Haji says, the attempts stopped and her depression and anxiety improved. The woman is now stable, married, and has a new daughter.

The Free Yezidi Foundation is just one organization in the Duhok area offering basic services to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the region. Others are going a step beyond, providing professional psychological support to those who need it. The Institute of Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology at the University of Duhok, a masters program that trains therapists to help address the psychological stress created by ISIS, recently graduated its first class of students.

After we visit the center and meet some of the Yezidi women who've sought solace there, Fardouse invites me for lunch at her family’s home. It’s as comfortable as a tent can be in these conditions, well-insulated but with a canvas roof that leaks when it rains. A TV plays Cartoon Network Arabia and small children take turns peeking their heads inside the tent to catch a glimpse of the blonde woman who’s come for lunch. Back in Sinjar, in her spacious five-room house, Fardouse baked the best sweets in town—flaky baklava, thick triangles of fried dough served with jam and cheese and sweetened black tea. Now, in this tiny tent, she has no oven at all.

“To be honest, we don’t know what the future holds,” Fardouse says when I ask about her hopes. When she hears the Iraqi national anthem now, she cries.

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:09 pm

Career Officials Thwart Aid to
Christian, Yazidi Genocide Victims


In the summer of 2014, the vicious Islamic State campaign against Yazidis and Christians in Iraq convinced President Obama to order airstrikes to try to save them from extermination. The Obama administration would officially declare the ISIS slaughter of those same religious minorities a “genocide,” a State Department designation that conveyed the urgency of protecting these groups and maintaining religious freedom and pluralism in Iraq and Northern Syria

Five years after those ISIS massacres, however, bureaucratic factions within the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development are acting as though the genocide declaration never occurred – even though it made the survival of these religious minorities in the homeland they’ve occupied for more than a thousand years a clear U.S. foreign policy priority.

During the Obama administration career and political appointees shared an aversion to awarding government assistance to local faith-based groups. They largely channeled U.S. funds for rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Syria through the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, which maintains a “religious-blind” policy that bars funds going to faith-based organizations.

These U.S. officials also aggressively opposed efforts to direct some U.S. funding to help local Catholic Church groups and other religious organizations that were providing almost all of the subsistence assistance to the Christian, as well as Yazidi, communities. The resistance has continued three years into the Trump administration – despite a presidential directive to fund faith-based groups and a year after the unanimous passage in both the House and the Senate of bipartisan legislation requiring the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, to channel some existing funds directly to these religious minority communities.

That legislation, HR 390 – The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, co-authored by Reps. Chris Smith, a Republican, and Anna Eshoo, a Democrat -- had 47 co-sponsors in the House, including seven Democrats, attracting such political opposites as conservative GOP Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Mark Meadows, as well as liberal Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the House impeachment charge, and fellow California Democrat Brad Sherman.

Rep. Anna Eshoo co-sponsored a bipartisan bill -- now a law -- channeling funds to victimized religious minority communities.

The bill cited the Archdiocese of Erbil, in Northern Iraq, which it said has provided assistance to “internally displaced Christians, Yazidis and Muslims throughout the greater Erbil region,” as especially in need of U.S. aid.

It also underscored the dramatic extent of the crisis when it comes to the fate of Christians’ fleeing their ancestral homeland: The number of Christians living in Iraq was decimated during and after the Iraq War and ISIS’ takeover of the country, from an estimated 800,000-to-1.4 million in 2002 to fewer than 250,000 in 2017.

Although the military campaign against ISIS launched by Obama and continued under President Trump has largely dismantled ISIS, the terrorist group’s violent legacy lives on. It left many homes of displaced Christians and Yazidis booby-trapped and, in many instances, other militia groups had moved in and claimed the homes as their own.

A few villages in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains area that had been clinging to viability were kept alive by millions of dollars in donations by a few international relief organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need, as well as the Hungarian government, given to local Catholic entities such as the Archdiocese of Erbil.

But those resources were limited and, by the beginning of 2017, largely exhausted. Since then, the Trump administration has made protecting religious freedom at home and abroad a top stated priority. Vice President Mike Pence has spoken out forcefully on behalf of persecuted Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, as well as Chinese Uighurs and of the besieged Muslim Rohingya in Burma. Moreover, during President Trump’s tenure, the State Department hosted its first international religious freedom summits, drawing delegations from more than 80 countries dedicated to ending religious persecution and promoting tolerance and pluralism as a stabilizing democratic force throughout the world.

While delivering a U.N. speech in September, Trump called on other nations to join him in trying to end religious persecution, calling the issue an “urgent moral duty.”

Yet, none of this has broken through the entrenched attitudes in Foggy Bottom. When the president and vice president tried to elevate the issue and enforce the new congressional mandate to direct some U.S. aid in Iraq to faith-based groups over the last year, former State Department and USAID officials and current officials accused Pence of “meddling” in internal agency contracting practices to benefit Christians over other minorities. They also have claimed that the administration’s policies toward Iraqi religious minorities are politically motivated to appeal to Christian communities in the U.S. to help Trump get reelected in 2020.

Katie Waldman, Pence’s press secretary, flatly rejects those arguments. She told RealClearPolitics that Pence is “proud of the work the Trump administration and members of his team have done to assist victims of genocide in Iraq.” Despite critics’ efforts to undermine the work, “it should come as no surprise that this administration is committed to actually doing what the president has promised – to provide aid in the most direct and effective way possible to those suffering — and we have appropriately focused on doing so.”

USAID spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala did not respond to any questions on the topic.

Current and former career foreign policy officials who oppose efforts to provide aid to faith-based groups, especially when directed to religious minority groups, have publicly argued that doing so exacerbates sectarian tension between Christians and Yazidis and the Muslim majority in Iraq and Syria – a contention that many stakeholders reject as simply false and lacking any tangible proof.

In a speech at the United Nations, President Trump called ending religious persecution an “urgent moral duty.”

The career officials, many speaking anonymously, also have raised concerns that providing the aid directly to faith-based organizations could risk violating prohibitions on promoting one religion over another found in the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. The career officials also point to a USAID regulation stipulating that awards “must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference and must be made on the basis of merit, not on the basis of religious affiliation of a recipient organization or lack thereof.”

Steven Feldstein, a former State Department and USAID official during the Obama administration, told ProPublica in an article posted in early November that “there are deliberate procurement guidelines developed over a number of years to guard precisely against this kind of behavior."

Paige Alexander, a former senior USAID official who served during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, said in the same ProPublica article that “USAID procurement with technical review panels are strict, as they should be, to avoid any political interference on the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

But some legal scholars and former State Department and USAID officials scoff at these excuses. The establishment clause argument is a red herring, they say, because it applies to attempts to promote one religion over another in the United States, not the very survival of a religion devastated by genocide and supported as a means of maintaining religious pluralism abroad.

Moreover, the USAID regulation that career officials point to doesn’t apply because HR 390, which is now a statute, supersedes any regulation by law – a fundamental difference between federal laws and the regulations they produce.

Richard Epstein, a leading libertarian legal scholar and professor of law at New York University, in an interview said there’s “no question” that federal laws override any agency regulations. As for the establishment clause, Epstein said he didn’t believe it applies in this case because the aid involves overseas entities and is being provided “to prevent a slaughter, not to try to promote a religion.”

“It would be a different thing if no money was being given to Muslim [refugee] groups as well, but in this case it’s being given simply to try to address an impossible situation,” he said.

“Pence is obviously interested in these things, but by saying that it’s [legally] in doubt because it’s being done by a devoutly religious person rather than an atheist … that wouldn’t matter under the Constitution unless it’s outside the scope of the mission as defined by HR 390.”

The vice president’s defenders say that Pence and his open Christian faith have made him an easy target for career foreign policy officials’ deep-seated biases against religion, especially evangelical Christian faiths. Pence and the Trump administration, they say, are simply trying to help the groups ISIS targeted the most and are aiming to fulfill the bipartisan congressional mandate the passage of HR 390 created but career officials have repeatedly thwarted.

“Pressure on USAID to pay attention to particular needs of Christians and other minorities did not just come from [Pence], but from the unanimous will of Congress as expressed through HR 390,” said Kent Hill, a senior fellow at and co-founder of the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C. Hill previously spent four years as a top USAID official during the George W. Bush administration.

Despite the passage of the law, Hill told RCP, USAID didn’t “get serious” about trying to respond until late 2018, and “then it took almost a year to make six very modest awards [to Iraqi-based faith-based organizations] under the ‘New Partners Initiative’ — a program specifically designed to seek out ‘new’ partners and help develop the capacity to receive larger awards in the future.”

The purpose behind the new partners program is to reduce excessive overhead costs associated with the larger NGOs, increasing efficiency and building up the capacity within indigenous populations to help their own people, instead of having large, outside organizations parachuting in to provide the services at much greater costs.

One source familiar with career officials’ resistance to these types of programs told RCP it demonstrated “blatant prejudice against the capability of local populations” and was “complicit in keeping local populations reliant and under control of highly paid international staffs with no long-term interests in the people themselves.”

“In another environment, this attitude would be called paternalistic and even neo-colonial,” the source said.

The bias at the State Department and USAID exists, Hill said, despite years of precedent for U.S. government funding of faith-based groups’ overseas humanitarian efforts. During the George W. Bush administration’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR, more than $100 million was directed to religious groups to engage communities of faith to understand the epidemic, raise community awareness and provide testing services. This program is widely praised for saving millions of lives in Africa. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has described faith-based organizations as key partners in PEPFAR because they are the largest non-governmental provider of health services across sub-Saharan Africa.

Several members of Congress have also credited Pence with trying to ensure that the funds are reaching the groups, as Congress intended. “I commend the president and vice president for ensuring that USAID funding, as mandated by Congress, goes quickly, directly and dependably to religious minority communities targeted for genocide by ISIS,” Rep. Fortenberry told RCP.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has pressed the Trump administration to bypass the United Nations to help Iraqi Christians and Yazidis, citing U.N. mismanagement.

To ensure that the aid is sustainable, Fortenberry said he is working with congressional colleagues on “a new security model that would integrate Christians and Yazidis into the Iraq and Kurdish security forces.” Along with Eshoo, Smith and others, Fortenberry actively pressed the Trump administration to bypass the United Nations to help Iraqi Christians and Yazidis, warning of U.N. corruption and mismanagement.

Toufic Baaklini, the president and chairman of the board at In Defense of Christians, a group dedicated to preserving Christianity in the Middle East, recently pointed out in an op-ed that “while the U.N. did successfully complete a few larger infrastructure projects and continues to do work in the region, anyone who was communicating with Christians and Yazidis on the ground in 2016 and 2017 knows the U.N. was woefully negligent in helping suffering genocide survivors.”

IDC produced a report documenting the problems with the U.N. work, which concluded that U.N. projects in the Nineveh Plains area of Iraq have been “rife with problems” with projects “often poorly completed and no adequate auditing mechanisms in place to check their work.”

For example, photos of a school in the town of Teleskof that the U.N. listed as refurbished through its work, showed new paint on the exterior with stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet. Inside, the school remained rubble and unusable without power, water and furniture. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is a UNDP partner.

Stephen Rasche, the legal counsel and director of the internally displaced people resettlement programs for the Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, testified to the House Foreign Affairs panel in the fall of 2017 that HR 390 was desperately needed because there is so little oversight of the UNDP assistance program that some U.S. dollars were going to benefit Iraqis who took over areas that persecuted Christians fled from even though the U.N. said the project was aimed at helping Christians.

Rasche also testified that UNDP claimed that work projects in the Iraqi town of Tel Kaif were directed to assist religious minority communities, even though no Christians remained there.

A UNDP spokesman defended his organization’s work in Iraq as the “cornerstone of supporting communities to recover from areas liberated by the [ISIS] caliphate.”

As of October 2019, he said, UNDP is one of the largest supporters of minority communities in Iraq in terms of volume of projects, impact and funding. While he said the work “does not draw distinctions between religious or ethnic minorities, he cited 468 “completed projects in Christian-majority towns” across the Nineveh Plains.

“The impact of these projects has been significant,” he said.

A displaced Iraqi family in 2016, when ISIS decimated Christian communities, which are still struggling to recover.

He also cited broad numbers for all people in the Nineveh Plains benefiting from its work, including 460,000 people who have “improved access to health care,” 188,000 who have “better access to clean, running water. In the Yazidi areas of Sinjar and Sinuni in Western Nineveh, he said, 69 stabilization projects have been completed, with 37 planned or underway, including a hospital and three primary health care centers and the rehabilitation of 22 schools.

The spokesman didn’t address the problematic UNDP projects Rasche cited in his testimony. A few months after Rasche made those points to Congress, Bashar Warda, the archbishop of Erbil, sat with Pence to discuss the need for more direct assistance for Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq. In a tweet featuring a photo of their meeting, Pence said he was headed to the Middle East to “discuss U.S. plans to accelerate funding [to] those impacted in the region.”

Yet, contrary to the argument that Pence intervened too strongly to enforce the new law, Hill and others contend that administration officials, including Trump-appointed USAID Administrator Mark Green and Pence’s team, haven’t done enough to fight the bureaucratic forces at USAID and fulfill the goals of HR390.

Trump issued an executive order in October 2017 requiring the State Department to stop funding “ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations,” but critics who support those efforts argue his political appointees have failed to push the policy to its logical conclusion and fund the groups with the longest and strongest track record of helping the remaining Iraqi Christians survive.

In the spring of 2018, officials bypassed smaller Iraqi Catholic groups in favor of providing tens of millions of dollars to much larger organizations. The groups that were rejected, the Catholic University and the NRC in Iraq, both were formal partners with YAZDA, a Yazidi non-governmental organization, and developed their proposal together in common cause, sources familiar with the process said.

The big recipients included Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Church’s large umbrella humanitarian organization, as well as the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance, an anti-poverty organization with ties to the Obama Foundation that had no significant prior working relationships or contact with displaced Iraqi Christian groups, according to sources familiar with its record.

When the rejected groups, which were affiliated with the Archdiocese of Erbil, complained, former Reagan administration national security adviser Robert McFarlane and Rep. Smith, who co-authored HR 390, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the decision and arguing that the Iraqi Christians are worse off than they were before the Trump administration.

Pence was incensed over the decision and dispatched Green to Iraq to see for himself what the U.S.-funded relief to Christian and Yazidi communities looked like on the ground. His spokeswoman also issued a statement to this reporter that Pence “would not tolerate bureaucratic delays in implementing the administration’s vision to deliver the assistance we promised to the people we pledged to help.”

USAID Administrator Mark Green. Critics contend he hasn't done enough to fight the bureaucratic forces at the agency and fulfill the goals of HR390.

Green reacted by removing Maria Longi, a career civil servant and a top official in USAID’s Middle East bureau. She remains on the USAID payroll but is teaching national security strategy at the National War College, a common refuge for exiled agency officials.

Although the act of pushing out Longi sent shockwaves through the agency last year, it didn’t break the resistance to sending direct USAID funds to Iraqi groups such as the Archdiocese of Erbil, whose needs HR 390 highlighted. It wasn’t until October 2019 that USAID announced $4 million in grants under the New Partners Initiative to six Iraqi organizations that had never previously received U.S. funding. Two of the awards went to groups that State Department officials had previously rejected, the Shlama Foundation, a small Christian charity that serves Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, and Catholic University in Erbil.

The $4 million in awards is tiny compared to the tens of millions doled out to other NGOs and hundreds of millions more in U.S. money channeled to the United Nations since the Obama administration. The $1 million Shlama Foundation award “seeks to improve job opportunities through training engineers on the installation of solar power, provide electricity for families, and install solar-powered pumps for farms and street lighting for villages,” according to a USAID press release.

The $700,000 Catholic University in Erbil award will provide “classes in business language and computer software for widows, victims of abuse, and former captives of ISIS.”

The same day, Green announced a new $18 million award to the International Organization for Migration, a secular longtime U.S. government contractor, to support the return and recovery of displaced religious and ethnic minority communities in the Nineveh Pains and Western Nineveh Province. Another longtime USAID partner, Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization headed by Billy Graham’s eldest son, Franklin Graham, was designated to receive $9 million of that total.

It was over the last month, in the wake of those modest awards, when career USAID and State Department officials publicly voiced their strongest opposition, accusing Pence of meddling in internal agency funding decisions.

“The problems about slowing things up is that people die in the interim,” Richard Epstein told RCP. “I would certainly support religious groups when they are trying to save lives and oppose those when they are trying to destroy them. You have to have the courage to pick.”

“I think Mr. Pence should be commended rather than criticized,” he added.

The harsh criticism of the meager funding awards is especially discouraging, added Rasche, because those grants were “only received after years of frustration and broken promises” to communities that the House and Senate have unanimously recognized as “victims of genocide, deserving of support from the U.S. and now existing only on the brink of extinction.”

“This is especially so given that our small award is geared heavily toward helping women who are both minorities and victims of genocide,” he said, “and to empower young women leaders in our community. We would have thought this was a good thing.”

Link to Article - Photos:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/artic ... 41929.html
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:53 am

The Soviet ban on religion

Yazidis in Georgia are struggling to find their identity

After a lull during Soviet times, and ostracised due to Christianity’s dominance, the Yazidi faith is now attempting to re-establish itself in the fabric of Georgian life.

“Back then, we didn’t need religion. Our god was Lenin,” says Sheikh Nuri Shekhnamati, a priest at the Quba Sultan Ezid, a Yazidi temple in the capital Tbilisi.

“People were more humane. With today’s wild capitalism we struggle to live day by day. The time came for religion. Religion can help. Everyone needs some kind of spirituality,” he adds.

The temple sits on top of a hill in the outskirts of Tbilisi, surrounded by crowded Soviet-era housing blocks on one side, and a ghostly new Chinese-built mall, the biggest one in the Caucasus, on the other. It was a typically quiet day at the temple, and Shekhnamati made us tea and offered us sweets as we sat with him in the kitchen.

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority from northern Iraq. While most of the population lives in Iraq today, there were two waves of migration to the Caucasus in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some Yazidis identify as ethnic Kurds, others as ethnic Yazidis, and this debate can be divisive.

The monotheistic religion has no holy book, and its sacred texts are orally transmitted by members of their priestly castes, such as Shekhnamati, who was born into a family of priests known as sheikhs. Yazidi priests do not formally teach the religion to their followers and many sacred texts are hidden from non-Yazidis. Until recently, no temples were built outside of the Yazidi heartland in Iraq.

In the Caucasus, the modernising drive of the Soviet Union caused many members of the priesthood to lose this orally transmitted knowledge.

“I started learning the texts later in life, in my mid-20s. I was more interested in my professional career, but people kept asking me to learn the religion,” he recalls. “I had no right to refuse: I was the son of a sheikh.”

Instead, he studied electrical mechanics for trains and subway systems, and in his last job before joining the temple, he fixed street lamps. He lives with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, in a flat in an old housing blocks not far from the temple.

Social upheavals and political transitions took their toll on the survival of the Yazidi religion in Georgia. “Our community was dying out,” says Dimitri Pirbari, the temple’s spiritual leader. But mobilising a community with no book, no institutions and no centralised structure proved the biggest challenge.

At the time of its launch in 2015, the Quba Sultan Ezid was the second Yazidi temple in the world outside of Iraq. With its single spire and bare-walled interiors, it is modelled on the mausoleum of Lalish, the main Yazidi pilgrimage site in northern Iraq.

On the other side of the grounds, a pyramid-shaped glass building serves as a centre for Georgian and Kurdish language lessons, and a recently launched course teaching the Yazidi religion and its history to any member of the public. Hanging on the centre’s walls are archival photographs, including an image of Tbilisi’s Yazidi community at a march commemorating the anniversary of the October Revolution in 1938.

It was the response from a community that had come dangerously close to losing its presence in Georgian society.

“The process of assimilation is really evident in our community. We’re losing our language and our religion. We don’t have a homeland,” says Lili Safarova, a Tbilisi-based women’s and education activist who was involved in the initial stages of the temple’s creation. “We needed a space to continue our language and our traditions.”

At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Yazidi community of Georgia numbered around 33,000. The rise of Georgian nationalism and ongoing civil war in the 1990s caused waves of migration to Russian cities and later to Europe. By 2002, the number of Yazidis living in Georgia had halved to around 18,000. In 2014, fewer than 12,000 remained.

In religiously conservative Georgia, where the Orthodox Church’s influence plays a powerful political role, the creation of a dedicated space for the Yazidi community in Tbilisi took more than two decades from conception to reality.

The idea of a temple and cultural centre was floated as early as the 1990s. The land was then acquired from the government in 2007, and permission to build a temple was granted by Patriarch Ilya II in 2010. The Yazidi religion was officially recognised as a public entity in Georgia in 2011.

Political reforms after Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2003 facilitated the process. Georgia is home to many minorities and religions, and Tbilisi has historically been a diverse and cosmopolitan hub city.

But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and until 2005, no religion other than the Georgian Orthodox Church could be officially registered. Amendments to the civil code in 2011 allowed minority religions to register as public entities.

“We advocated the issue because it gave legal status to all our organisations. We did not have this possibility before,” says Agit Mirzoev, a Tbilisi-based public defence lawyer who is involved in the temple and spiritual council’s registration.

The Soviet Union suppressed religion, but it supported the Kurdish culture and folklore of Tbilisi’s Kurdish-speaking community, who were predominantly Yazidis. In Tbilisi, a Kurdish theatre run by the community held regular performances, but it stopped operating in the early 1990s, after Georgia’s independence.

“The theatre was a source of pride for us at the time. For the children of a generation that was predominantly illiterate, to be writing records of our culture and history...” recalled Vitali Nabiev, a Yazidi journalist from Tbilisi who now lives in France.

With the absence of a dedicated space, Kurdish nationalist groups from the Middle East filled the vacuum. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) had an office in Tbilisi and was active in the 1990s, transmitting extremist literature, recruiting fighters and facilitating travel to Turkey through Moscow. Leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq also supported cultural activities such as radio stations and newspapers, and made donations to the existing temple.

Today, while inter-ethnic tensions have softened in Georgia since the 1990s, economic and social issues remain for the Yazidi community.

“I can count on my fingers the number of Georgian Yazidis who’ve come out of poverty. Many do not pursue a higher education. Until recently, many did not have faith in the electoral system and did not participate in elections,” says Isko Daseny, a Georgian parliamentarian and member of the Yazidi community.

But the biggest threat for the community is the loss of identity.

Since its opening, the activity at the temple has trickled slowly into the lives of Yazidis in Tbilisi. “I come here three to four times a month with my family,” says Rafael Adjamyan, a young resident of Tbilisi. “When I was growing up we could only dream of a space like this. There are a lot of rumours about our religion. We needed a space to get accurate and reliable information.”

But overall visitor figures are unclear. “It’s difficult to say how many people come,” says Shekhnamati, “On a busy day, we get up to 100 people. But yesterday nobody came, and the day before that 20 visitors.” Of the approximately 1,000 Yazidis he estimates live in the vicinity, only some 300 visit the temple.

At the time of its launch in 2015, the Quba Sultan Ezid was only the second Yazidi temple in the world outside of Iraq (Lemma Shehadi/The Independent)

Rather, the traditions of Yazidis in the Caucasus are centred around the community’s homes and cemeteries. The religion’s strict caste system assigns the role of religious teachings to pirs, which means elder in Kurdish, or sheikhs. Every Yazidi has their own pir and sheikh, including the pirs and sheikhs themselves. Yazidis visited leaders from the priestly castes of pirs and sheikhs for weddings, funerals and other holy days.

“For spiritual matters, I go to my pir,” says Emma Kalashov, a retired cleaner living in one of the vast housing units of Varkatili, a neighbourhood near the temple – “My pir is my temple.” Her visits to the physical temple, she adds, are limited. “I may go four times a year, when my family visits from abroad.”

Emma’s pir, Edik Pir Drbes, lives in her building. On the door to his flat is a small sticker of Lalish’s conical spires, and large peacock-shaped ornaments line the walls and shelves of his living room.

And though Yazidis do not have a book, Pir Drbes has a large peacock-emblazoned book-shaped case high on a plinth against the back wall.

Pir Drbes describes the mysticism at the heart of the religion and its language. “Nobody can see God Himself. I associate God with the sun, and I pray facing the sun,” he explains.

In addition, Yazidis believe in seven holy beings, headed by an archangel, Tawus Melak, who takes the form of a peacock. “Melak tawus is an angel coming from God – he has power and reigns on everything on earth,” says Pir Drbes. “After God the most respected persons in our culture are our parents.”

“No religious event can happen without the presence of a pir or sheikh,” explains Pir Drbes. “We are there for weddings and funerals to recite prayers. With our own hands, we sew white clothes for the dead before they are buried.”

Pir Drbes was initiated to the religion’s sacred oral traditions from a young age. “I was 10 years old. My father died young so my brother taught me what he had learnt from our grandfather. I visited families with him and learnt that way.”

In his bedroom, he shows us his ster, a shrine consisting of stacked mattresses, which is found in Yazidi households in the Caucasus. Academics believe this tradition emerged out of the originally nomadic nature of Caucasian Yazidis.

“When we were cut off from Iraq we created these domestic altars in our homes. When the sun is not visible, I open this shrine and pray to it,” he explains.

He pulls out a plastic bag from within the mattress heap, which contains soil, cotton string and pearl-shaped clay balls gathered from his recent trips to Iraq.

Pirs and sheikhs typically receive alms from their followers. But grinding poverty in the Caucasus caused many to turn away from spiritual matters. “The church charges very high fees for its services, but as Yazidi priests, we take whatever our followers can give us,” says Pir Drbes.

As he drove us through the sprawl of housing blocks to the local cemetery in his 4x4 German car with leather seats, with the letters “P – IR” on his license plate, Pir Drbes explained that he does not have a job other than his spiritual role. “I prefer to serve the people.”

By contrast to the informal, unwritten traditions described by Pir Drbes, the leaders at the temple pursue an active spiritual, educational and political strategy. “Our first aim is to be recognised as an institutionalised religion. Without this it’s difficult to dialogue with other religions,” explains Pirbari.

The Yazidi religion has no institutional hierarchy. There is one political leader, the Mir, and important religious figures who form a spiritual council in Iraq. But when the Yazidi Spiritual Council of Georgia was registered in 2011, it appointed its own spiritual leader.

Pirbari dresses in white cotton robes and headband, typical of a priest in rural Iraq. Greeting us in the reception room, he recalls his nostalgia for Dighomi, the neighbourhood which he grew up in Tbilisi. Like much of the city, it has been affected by ongoing uncontrolled construction. On the wall behind him is a painting of the mausoleum at Lalish, and on the adjacent wall hangs a northern Iraqi rug.

“I want the spiritual content of the Yazidi religion to inform the daily lives of Yazidis,” explains Pirbari.

As such, the temple has revived rituals which did not previously exist among Yazidis in the Caucasus. Pirbari has strong connections to the spiritual leadership in Iraq, and In June this year, the temple brought in qewwals, members of the Yazidi spiritual castes whose role is to sing sacred texts, and who only live in Lalish, Iraq. “There was a lot of admiration for them,” says Pirbari, “It is one of the ways in which we are trying to recover our traditions.”

Some view the temple in Tbilisi as a contemporary expression of the religion. “They’re trying to create a ‘modern’ form of Yazidism that could be seen as more ‘systematic’ and understandable to the younger generation,” says Khanna Omarkhali, an Associate Professor at the Free University of Berlin and a member of the Yazidi priesthood.

The temple extols the view that Yazidis are a distinct ethnic group. “My studies in ethnology show Yazidism is an ethnicity and a religion. We are not Kurds. We have the right to self-identify,” insists Pirbari.

This is partly in response to the fact that, for decades, the Yazidi community has been caught between different parties of the Kurdish struggle in the Middle East. “We don’t want to be part of these political games,” says Mirzoev. “We have peaceful aims as citizens of Georgia.”

The educational centre, named the “Theology Academy”, teaches religion, language and history, and is the first of its kind in the world. A Department of Yazidism, headed by Pirbari, will soon be created at the Tbilisi’s Ilya State University’s Institute of Oriental Studies.

But given the oral nature of the religion, this educational dimension is also met with scepticism.“Yazidi priests do not learn their religion in schools. We inherit the knowledge from our parents and grandparents,” says Reza Muradyan, a young priest and shop owner from Tbilisi. “We can’t talk – at least until now – about an explicit theology among Yazidis, first of all because they do not have a sacred writ,” adds Omarkhali.

The spiritual council also acts as a political engine. “We are more mobilised and self-organised than ever. We have good communications with the government and with other religions in Georgia, especially the Georgian Orthodox Church,” adds Mirzoev.

“We want to be part of a process which facilitates peaceful relationships between different world religions,” says Pirbari. “We openly declare humane values of mutual respect and love.” Pirbari has facilitated meetings for the Yazidi spiritual leadership in Iraq with the Vatican and Russian patriarchate, among others. Above his desk in his office is a gold-plated, peacock-shaped relief sculpture which was a gift from the Iranian cleric Ayatollah Shahrestani.

But the temple’s emphasis on the religious aspects of the Yazidi culture has attracted criticism from some quarters.

In downtown Tbilisi’s House of Friendship, a Soviet-era administrative building with an elaborate modernist facade, Safarova, the women’s activist, describes her concerns: “Today the space is run by a small number of religious persons who have alienated the young in particular.”

The temple’s main sponsor, Suliko Simaev, a Tbilisi-based businessman whose company sells home security systems, agrees.

“The original idea was to have a public cultural centre and a small temple. The young would come to the cultural centre, join its educational activities, and also learn about their religion.” he says, when we met him in his office in the northern suburbs of the capital.

Partly, the view that Yazidis are an ethno-religion has been divisive. “Our critics are an old guard red star intelligentsia, most of them atheists,” says Pirbari, referring to the fact that the Soviet Union supported Kurdish culture and banned religion. Nonetheless, respondents interviewed for this article of all ages identified as ethnic Yazidis, Kurds or Yazidi-Kurds.

Further, many members of the community are not recognised by the temple, including Georgian Yazidis from mixed marriages. “We welcome everyone, from every religion at our temple,” says Pirbari. “But according to our religion, we cannot recognise Yazidis that come from mixed marriages as Yazidis. We will welcome them as members of another religion.”

“We are fighting for survival, not radicalism,” insists Pirbari. But others disagreed. “We wanted a space that would unite us,” says Safarova, “but now we are divided.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/worl ... 39456.html
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:33 pm

Women captive in Turkish territory

Yazidis residing in Syrian territories controlled by Turkey remain enslaved by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups, said American Enterprise Institute scholar and former Pentagon official Michael Rubin in the Washington Examiner

The Yazidis, members of a religious community that has inhabited the region since pre-Islamic times, were slaughtered and enslaved in a genocide carried out by the Islamic State starting in 2014. But while ISIS has been driven out of the region, Rubin said fighters from Syrian rebel proxies of Turkey have continued their treatment of the endangered minority.

Turkey has been guilty of double standards in its treatment of Syrian refugees by refusing to provide aid and assistance to Yazidi refugees while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls for extended international support for Syrian refugees residing in Turkey, Rubin said.

"Now, it appears the Turkish influence might be more malign as the proxies it supports continue to enslave Yazidi girls while both perpetuate both the practices ISIS supported and the trauma its Yazidi victims endured," he said.

Following Turkey's latest offensive in northeast Syria, the Turkish-backed rebels spearheading the country’s military operation were accused of abuses against religious minorities. The United States has urged Turkey to commit to protecting them.

"If the White House is serious about religious freedom, the return of 3,000 Yazidis girls and women from de facto Turkish enslavement should be top priority," Rubin said.

https://ahvalnews.com/yazidis/yazidi-wo ... led-turkey
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:58 am

Yezidis freeze on Mount Sinjar

Thousands of Yezidis (Ezidis) who live at the Sardasht displacement camp on Mount Sinjar have called for basic humanitarian aid as winter takes its toll on the residents there

The Sardasht camp was constructed in 2014 with 2,300 tents. There are currently 14,300 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and victims who survived at the hands of the Islamic that live at the camp.

Despite the camp having been constructed for six years now, IDPs there complain that tents are damaged and have never been replaced.

Ibrahim Khodida, an elderly man, displaced from Sinjar (Shingal), said there is also a shortage of water, basic services, and humanitarian assistance.

“I plead with the government, the humanitarian community, and the relative sides to come to our aid,” Khodida told Kurdistan 24. “We only request water, electricity, basic humanitarian aid, and a doctor.”

Murad Khame, another IDP at the camp, said residents have been without electricity for 15 days. “It’s been raining heavily with blinding fog for eight days now, and we don’t have any services,” Khame told Kurdistan 24.

“Most of the humanitarian organizations come here and offer nothing, but take advantage of the situation for their publicity.”

Ali Shabo, a representative of Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD), said weather conditions had affected the living condition of people at camps, especially the elderly and children.

“We have children and elderly people who live at the camp. Rain and fog have become common here, which deteriorates the condition of tents quickly,” he stated, urging the relevant authorities to find radical solutions, not temporary ones. “A food basket is not the only solution.”

Shabo noted that the situation of displaced persons has not changed in five years and said humanitarian aid was not enough. He called on the Iraqi government “to solve the political struggle” in Shingal, so its residents can return.

Ezidis suffered heavily at the hands of the Islamic State following its emergence in Iraq in 2014. The occupation of the Ezidi-majority city of Shingal led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

Furthermore, Islamic State militants subjected women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.

https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/988 ... zKVwjQoEuY
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Dec 22, 2019 12:47 am

Yazidis to receive help

UAE delivers Dh9 million aid for humanitarian project led by Nadia Murad

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is leading efforts to deliver clean water for thousands of people in northern Iraq
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad is leading efforts to boost living conditions for fellow Yazidis in northern Iraq.

The UAE donated millions of dirhams worth of aid to a humanitarian project being led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad to deliver clean water supplies to thousands of embattled residents in Iraq.

The government pledged Dh9.2 million to the bid to provide comprehensive potable water, sanitation and hygiene projects for more than 60,000 Yazidi people living in six villages in the Sinjar district of the country.

Sultan Al-Shamsi, assistant minister of foreign affairs and international co-operation for International Affairs, said the Emirates is committed to addressing the needs of communities blighted by ISIS attacks.

The crucial scheme will be implemented by Dutch organisation Dorcas.

Ms Murad, who is also a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, was honoured with the Nobel Peace prize in October, 2018, for her tireless work to shine a light on the struggles of people caught up in conflicts across the globe.

The activist was one of thousands of Yazidi women captured by ISIS militants in 2014 and forced into sexual slavery after the group overran Sinjar, in northern Iraq.

Ms Murad escaped her horrific ordeal and has since become a prominent campaigner against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

In August, Ms Murad urged fellow members of the Yazidi faith to return to their homeland in northern Iraq

Iraq hosted more than half a million Yazidis before the brutal attacks of 2014. Since then about 100,000 have emigrated and 360,000 remain displaced.

Thousands of Yazidis were killed by ISIS and an estimated 6,400 were kidnapped, mostly women and children. The United Nations has described extremist group’s onslaught as genocide.

She discussed her important role on the global stage during a meeting with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in the UAE capital in September.

Following the meeting, held at Qasr Al Bahr, Sheikh Mohamed called on the world to unite to combat violence against women and minority groups.

Ms Murad thanked the UAE for its financial support for the clean water programme.

She praised the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince for his support for minority groups and his work to enhance peace-building initiatives.

https://www.thenational.ae/uae/governme ... d-1.953576

It is shameful that members of the coalition, who spent BILLIONS destroying Yazidi homes and villages in their battle against ISIS, have failed to rebuild that which they helped to destroy

Most countries have money to pay for destruction but none to rebuild

Governments are using tax payers money to fund their weapon building perhaps they should actually ask the tax payers if they would rather have money spent of helping others than destruction

Every time the coalition when in to rescue an area from ISIS, they left behind destruction
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Dec 22, 2019 1:06 am

How to do no harm:

Resources to help journalists avoid re-traumatizing survivors of sexual violence

A study of Yazidi survivors found that some were negatively affected by their experiences with journalists, expert Sherizaan Minwalla said

Sexual and gender-based violence terrorizes women and girls around the world, affecting as many as one in three women. Reporters play an essential role in bringing these cases to light so that authorities can take action and prevent further abuses. Yet reporting on gender-based violence comes with serious risks to survivors.

When journalists tell these stories carelessly, or without proper training, they can leave survivors feeling exploited or exposed to stigma and retaliation.

When members of the Yazidi community faced targeted sexual violence and enslavement by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or Da’esh), news reports sparked urgent action by the international community. Some women hoped sharing their stories would help bring justice.

But others felt the reporting itself caused harm, said Sherizaan Minwalla, a legal expert who has studied the issue.

Dr. Nagham Nawzat specializes in providing care to Yazidi survivors in Iraq. Interviews with health professionals, counsellors and the community can help reporters show the wider impact of sexual and gender-based violence.

“We explored how Yazidi women themselves felt about the ways in which journalists gathered and reported on their stories," she explained.

"Overall, a majority of our respondents described experiences with, or perceptions about, reporters that suggested a patterned breach in ethics among journalists, who appeared to disregard the extent to which the reporting of the story might negatively impact highly traumatized survivors, with further harm to women’s individual and collective well-being.”

But new initiatives are aiming to help journalists navigate the dangers of this important reporting. UNFPA and the Rutgers University Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) are partnering to help provide resources and guidance to reporters, among other efforts.

Opening eyes

“Journalism constitutes one of the few available avenues for [survivors’] stories to be heard,” said Jafar Irshaidat, a UNFPA communications specialist in Jordan. “Unfortunately, journalists can inadvertently become part of the problem.”

Mr. Irshaidat has led trainings for journalists that both encourage the coverage of gender-based violence and caution reporters about the potential to cause harm. These seminars use videos and guided discussions to explore issues of consent, protection, re-traumatization and myths about victims of violence.

“This training was truly eye-opening. I was never really exposed to information on gender-based violence and the sensitivities of reporting on it,” said Bushra Nairoukh, a reporter in Jordan. “I feel more responsible as a journalist now that I have been introduced to this important subject."

UNFPA has also worked with humanitarian partners to create media guidelines and a Syria-specific handbook for journalists. UNFPA offices in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere have also conducted media workshops on these issues.

These efforts are already making a difference. Since 2014, more than 500 journalists have attended the UNFPA trainings held in Jordan, and some 1,500 have been reached through related messages.

"I learned a lot about the potential consequences of reporting and how to carefully phrase my writing to ensure that I am not harming those I’m trying to help, particularly vulnerable women and girls," said Fatma Ramadan, from Egypt.

Listening to reporters

CWGL, the founder of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign, has been working in parallel to create a handbook, website and app to help journalists address these issues. In 2018, CWGL and UNFPA jointly held consultations with dozens of journalists in Amman to understand their challenges and needs. The information gathered will help inform CWGL’s handbook and other resources under development.

Many journalists have indicated that trainings should reach further into the newsroom, as well. “Journalists complain that, in many cases, their stories are dropped at the editor’s table, stressing the need to target editors in any awareness efforts,” Mr. Irshaidat said.

At the same time, he added, journalism offers opportunities for creative thinking and problem solving. Reporters can be encouraged to find novel ways to report on gender-based violence without relying on invasive personal interviews, such as “more explorative features that examine the wider social ramifications of gender-based violence and male dominance,” he said.

On 19 December, UNFPA and CWGL officially partnered together to work towards eliminated gender-based violence. The partnership will include efforts to reach, inform and empower journalists – who can then help change global perceptions about violence and gender norms.

“We are looking at our work around the journalist initiative and shifting the discourse on how [gender-based violence] is reported in the media,” said Krishanti Dharmaraj, the Executive Director of CWGL, at the partnership signing in New York.

“This alliance is going to pick up the pace,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “It is going to accelerate action.”

https://www.unfpa.org/news/how-do-no-ha ... l-violence
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Dec 22, 2019 2:36 am

They used every kind of torture

Yazidi family in Australia tells of Islamic State horrors

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August 3, 2014 was the day that the lives of Yazidi man Shamo Silo and his family changed forever.

It was a day that began just as any other. In the early hours of the morning, Mr Silo farewelled his wife and drove out of the Yazidi village of Kocho, in northern Iraq, and headed for work.

After crossing the Iraqi border into the Kurdistan Region, a route he took daily, he noticed something unusual.

He saw residents of the nearby village of Zumar fleeing westward towards the Syrian border.

Seeing the exodus, he quickly phoned his wife.

“When I saw the border being open I thought something is wrong,” he told SBS Kurdish.

“I phoned my wife and she told me everything is normal here and that they are safe. I told her to be vigilant and to monitor the situation and if necessary to just get into the car and leave. I eventually left work and took the Rabia route going through a village called Qahira. All of our forces were withdrawing and heading towards Kurdistan.”

Along his route homeward, armed Arabs who lived in the region had closed off the roads leading to Mr Silo’s village.

“I called my wife and told her that I can’t get to them anymore and that the roads are closed. I told her to do whatever is beneficial for yourselves.”

Sinjar after liberation from the IS, 15 December 2016. Sinjar is one of more than 30 towns in northwestern Iraq where mass graves have been found.

The town of Sinjar in northern Iraq.

His wife and their children Jiyan, Viyan, Iman and Hessen, were evacuated by security forces to Sinjar, but when they arrived there, Islamic State militants were already waiting for them and quickly confiscated their vehicles and left them helpless.

ISIS fighters had taken control of the Sinjar region on August 3 and many of the residents of the village of Kocho, which had a population of about 1,200, became trapped, unable to flee and in constant fear of being killed or abducted. The day of invasion is known as "the black day" by Yazidis.

The family remained in Sinjar for two days with Arab friends, before ISIS militants returned to the town and informed the population that they weren’t there for the Yazidis minority, Muslims or Christians, but rather to topple the country’s government.

“An Arab man then returned my family to Kocho, and they stayed there until 15 August 2014.”

The family house in Kocho, Iraq.

But on the morning of August 15, the nightmare that had haunted the residents of Kocho for the previous 12 days finally transpired when IS fighters began a systematic massacre of the town’s men and boys, before abducting all of the women and children.

The entire male population of Kocho, up to 400 men, were rounded up and executed, and up to 1,000 women and children were abducted, according to witness reports to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Up to 200 Yazidi men were killed in the nearby village of Tal Afar for refusing to convert to Islam.

A journalist watches as smoke rises over Sinjar, northern Iraq from oil fires set by Islamic State militants.

A journalist watches as smoke rises over Sinjar, northern Iraq from oil fires set by Islamic State militants.

“From the middle of August to the middle of September I did not have any contact with my family.”

On September 15, the family was taken to Kocho’s local school, where ISIS members began separating families, before transporting them eastward towards Tal Afar.

“Viyan, Jiyan, Iman and Hessen were initially with their mother but our eldest son Raed and his grandfather were separated from the rest of the family in the beginning.

“My wife told me that she, their four children and their daughter-in-law are all together in Tal Afar under ISIS control."

“I was getting news about my family from some Arabs and the security forces as well as Kurds and other sources.”

Image
Mr Silo's son Hessen has been missing since 2014

Mr Silo’s family was forced to stay with ISIS fighters until April 2015, before they were separated.

His two younger daughters, Viyan, 9, and Iman, 5, were taken to Syria then returned to Iraq, and taken to Mosul and Tal Afar.

During this time, Mr Silo frantically searched for his family members by contacting local and regional authorities for any information.

Image
Iman and Viyan in 2014

Eventually, with the assistance of Shia members of Iraq’s National Security Force and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, the girls were reunited with their father in 2017.

“When Iraqi Security Forces took control of Tal Afar, Viyan came with other civilians and surrendered to the Peshmerga; Ashty Kocher from the Peshmerga forces telephoned me and told me that they have my daughter. I went and collected my daughter.”

Mr Silo’s youngest daughter was taken to Turkey, where she lived with an ISIS family from Tal Afar.

“Iraq’s Security forces had located my daughter and her photographs were distributed everywhere and that her name is Iman. I contacted them and told them that she’s my daughter. They brought her to me within 24 hours.”

He still has no information about the whereabouts of the rest of his family members.

Asylum in Australia

On September 24, 2019, Mr Silo and his two daughters received asylum in Australia and weeks later, they arrived in the NSW town of Armidale, which already had an established community of Yazidi refugees. In October, the family resettled in Wagga Wagga.

But life would never be the same, especially for the young girls who remain too traumatised to speak of their experiences.

“Everyone knows ISIS does not treat anyone nicely, they used every kind of torture,” the now 14-year-old Viyan said.

“After what I have been through my mental situation is very bad.”

The family after arriving in Australia in 2019.

Image
Iman, now nine years old, recalled the days when she would just cry, begging for her mother.

“They were very nasty, if I cried they would beat me, they would get angry at me and tell me you have to become a Muslim. They took my mother away from me at night,” she said.

Mr Silo is also struggling. He is desperate to find the rest of his family.

“I don’t know anything about them, but my daughter-in-law was found in 2016 and she has been resettled in Germany.

“I am not coping very well, my situation is very bad as you know bringing up two young girls without their mother is very difficult, my entire family is gone, but life must go on for the sake of my daughters.”

Mr Silo said he was extremely grateful to Australia for providing asylum to his family, but had one request to assist him with his situation - better access to counselling services for refugees, especially for those who were held captive by ISIS.

“I would like to thank the Australian government and the community in Wagga Wagga, they are doing a lot for us.

“We have been here for two months and yesterday was the first time Viyan had a 45-minute session of counselling. They tell me Iman will get counselling soon on a weekly basis.”

The Australian government provides a range of settlement services aimed at assisting humanitarian entrants through the Humanitarian Settlement Program.

Services included assistance in securing employment, housing and mental health and wellbeing services.

https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english ... BUcwcPjBjc
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Dec 24, 2019 1:10 am

Washing machines

Revolutionary washing machines being sent to Kurdish Iraq

LIFE-CHANGING washing machines invented by a British student are on their way to Kurdish Iraq to help displaced families living in water-scarce refugee camps.

Fifty of the low-cost devices, which use half the water needed for normal electric machines and run three cycles in just 15 minutes, will arrive in the Middle East this week.

Engineering student Nav Sawhney hopes his invention, called a Divya, will save water and improve the day-to-day lives of women and girls who are often burdened with washing clothes by hand.

The Bath University student said: “As well as saving time, the Divya is less labour intensive when washing clothes, meaning that the beneficiary does not have to crouch down for long periods of time, scrubbing and wringing out clothes.”

Using a Divya saves women and girls from experiencing chronic back and joint pain often caused by hand washing, he explained.

Mr Sawhney co-founded the Washing Machine Project with Alex Hughes last year in a bid to bring quick, easy and cheap washing to every corner of the globe.

The group says that 70 per cent of the world’s population does not have access to washing machines.

“What drives us forward is a common goal to make the world a better place with the skills we have,” he said. “The exciting thing is that we’re only just getting started.”

In March this year the pair visited four camps for refugees living in Kurdish Iraq to test two prototypes with families belonging to the Yazidi minority.

According to Care International, a humanitarian agency that operates in Iraq, around 1.8 million people are internally displaced in the country’s northern region.

The engineers found that the camps only receive water every three to four days, which has to be driven in by lorry by the UN.

This is a costly process, made worse by the fact that so much is needed to run electric washing machines.

As a result, one of the main design goals of the Divya was to reduce the amount of water needed to wash clothes.

Now the improved machines are ready to be installed with the help of Oxfam. Mr Sawhney says this initial project will affect the lives of more than 500 people.

In addition to freeing up time for women and girls so they can receive an education, the Divyas also reduce the cases of skin conditions.

“The Divya limits the interaction of soap and Dettol/chlorine typically seen by the beneficiary using traditional methods,” he explained. “Meaning rashes or dry skin that are caused by prolonged interaction of the chemicals are no longer observed.”

Skin diseases are common in refugee camps where sanitation is poor and many people are forced to live in overcrowded conditions.

This year, British volunteer Ross Ireland started his own washing machine project on the Greek island of Lesbos to tackle rampant scabies in Europe’s biggest and worst refugee camp, Moria.

The Lava Project is the island’s first industrial laundry facility for refugees, washing and drying 1,600 bags of clothes and bedding every month for the camp’s most vulnerable residents.

“As the scabies mite migrates into clothes and bedding and lays eggs there as well as under the skin it’s an essential part of treatment to hot wash all clothes and bedding and wear clean clothes after treatment,” Mr Ireland told the Star.

He added that having access to washing machines not only improves sanitation but also “gives people back some dignity” while they are forced to wait in limbo.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article ... rdish-iraq
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Dec 25, 2019 11:01 pm

Yazidis new lease of life

Yazidi refugees in Manitoba find home, help their new neighbours through 'healing farm'

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As each seed broke the surface of the rich Manitoba soil, Salim Hasan felt a little bit more like he was building real roots in his new home.

The comforting routine of planting seeds, taking care of the crop and celebrating harvest with the community brought the Yazidi refugee back to a world before Islamic State militants shattered his homeland.

"It felt like I got my identity back again," Hasan said through a translator.

"I was able to provide for my family ... and see how happy my kids were. It really made me happy and it was something I didn't think I would feel again."

Hasan, along with hundreds of other Yazidi refugees, harvested more than 9,000 kilograms of produce this year as part of a special farming project in Manitoba. The food was given to refugee families and leftovers were sold at farmers markets or given to food banks.

"It's an incredible sense of pride that they are able to work themselves," said Nafiya Naso, a Yazidi resettlement co-ordinator.

"We call it a healing farm now. That wasn't really the mission or the mandate of the farm, but it's really what it has become."

Naso is part of a grassroots group that advocated for Yazidi refugees and their resettlement in Canada. It now supports their integration into life in Manitoba.

Naso was about six years old when her family fled to Syria from Iraq. The family was in a refugee camp for nine years before arriving in Canada in 1999. She never forgot what they went through.

About five years ago, Naso started hearing about atrocities ISIS committed against the religious minority Yazidis. Men were killed, boys were murdered or taken as child soldiers and women and girls became sex slaves. Hundreds of thousands fled.

The United Nations has called the mass killings a genocide.

Naso began to advocate on behalf of Yazidis and Operation Ezra was formed with support from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Soon many more faith groups, schools and other organizations joined to help.

Michel Aziza, the chairman of Operation Ezra, says the organization has sponsored 11 families — totalling 65 people — in Winnipeg. The group has also been key in the settlement of about 250 Yazidi refugees who came to the city as part of a federal resettlement project two years ago. About 1,200 government-assisted Yazidi refugees were brought to Canada.

Many of the refugees were single mothers with six to eight children. Their husbands had disappeared in their homeland; so had some of their older children. Many had a history of being sex slaves under ISIS.

There was much trauma to contend with on top of regular challenges faced by refugees, Aziza said.

Many of the families were struggling to have enough food, so when a community member volunteered his land in 2018, Operation Ezra jumped on it, Aziza said. Almost 320 kilograms of potatoes were farmed.

This year, the Shelmerdine Garden Centre donated just over three hectares of land in Saint François Xavier, Man. The results were beyond what anyone could imagine, Aziza said.

Refugees grew enough to feed the Yazidi families, sell extra and, when it still wasn't gone, make donations to the food bank.

Aziza said many of the families have realized that returning to their homeland may never be an option, so they are planting deep roots in a new home.

"It became very therapeutic for them."

Naso said gardening has brought the refugees a bountiful harvest, support from community and faith in a future.

She recalled an older Yazidi woman who looked out at the farmland and spoke about how she expected to die at the hands of ISIS.

"To see a sight like this with the kids on the farm, and the other women and the men doing what they did back home before the war started and ISIS came and changed their lives forever," Naso said, taking a moment to hold back tears.

"Just that little moment in itself is what this farm means for the community and means for the families and their healing."

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/1 ... aling-farm
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Dec 27, 2019 2:49 pm

Yazidi Suicides

Suicide within Yezidi communities reveals mental health care crisis

Fatima was in her home on August 3, 2014, now referred to as “The Black Day” by the Yezidis of Shingal. She and her 13-year-old disabled daughter were alone and scared, trying to hide when Islamic State (ISIS) members stormed into her house.

Her daughter was so hungry that she began to whimper, alerting the ISIS fighters to their hiding place. Fatima and her daughter were kidnapped.

“They [ISIS] pretended to be friendly at first, saying that they would find some food and get medical treatment for my daughter,” Fatima, age 52, said. She would soon find out that the men were lying.

The real horror of her trauma began when her daughter was taken from her and put into a different room.

Fatima explained in detail how the men used cables to tie her arms and legs. She was then beaten, stripped and raped repeatedly until she lost consciousness.

“When I finally woke up, I saw that I was covered in blood. No one was around. I knew I had to find my daughter and escape,” she tearfully recalled. “I grabbed my daughter and began running into the mountains.”

The physical disabilities of her daughter prevented her from being able to walk, so her mother, bruised and in dreadful pain from the severity of her injuries, was forced to carry her.

They had no food or water, and Fatima was becoming exhausted from carrying the weight of her teenage daughter. She was forced to make the painstaking decision to leave her daughter behind.

“I don’t know what happened to me,” Fatima said with tears flowing down her cheeks. “I was almost dead and in pain and just wasn’t able to carry her any longer with my injuries.”

She continued running alone until she again lost consciousness. When she awoke this time, she was surrounded by several people from her village and other villages. The helped her, giving her food and water until she regained her strength to keep going.

Eventually, Fatima arrived at a camp in the Kurdistan Region where she was reunited with her husband, her daughter and son-in-law, and her 13-year-old son, the twin of her daughter who is now gone forever.

Fatima and her family returned to Shingal in 2017, but she suffers from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and is still unable to come to terms with the loss of her daughter.

However, at the beginning of 2019, a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) clinic opened inside Sinjar General Hospital. The clinic, which is the first of its kind, is run by Access Aid Foundation (AAF) and receives funding from Cordaid organization.

It was April 2019 when Fatima was first taken in to the MHPSS clinic to see a psychiatrist. She was able to tell her story to trusted medical professionals, and she began treatment, receiving a prescription for medication to help her manage her depression and PTSD.

Speaking to Fatima in her Shingal home last month, she said that the treatment helped her return to a normal life where she remains active and takes care of her family as well as day-to-day house duties. She also enjoys sewing traditional dresses in her spare time.

“This program is important, especially for our people,” she said. “I had seen a doctor at the camp we were in, but we couldn’t afford medicine so it didn’t help me. The clinic [in Shingal] provides medicine for free.”

Since the clinic opened in March 2019, well over 200 patients have been received and treated. The most severe cases receive free medicine as needed and follow up with a psychiatrist on a weekly basis. The less severe cases are referred to the MHPSS Center, also operated by AAF, which provides a child-friendly space as well as several recreational activities for psychosocial support and treatment.

Noor is one such patient who takes part in the recreational activities at the MHPSS Center.

Although Noor escaped ISIS captivity, where she was frequently beaten, she became anxious, depressed and disassociated from her family. She often contemplated suicide.

Noor had stopped communicating with anyone and only wanted to be left alone in a dark room without eating or drinking. This led to her becoming comatose at one point.

She first visited the MHPSS clinic in April and is now able to manage her anxiety with the help of medication. She enjoys taking a knitting course at the MHPSS Center, which has helped her to begin socializing again. She is once again able to function on a day-to-day basis and take care of her family.

“I would be dead now if it weren’t for the treatment that I’ve received,” she said.

Before the MHPSS clinic was established at Sinjar General Hospital, there were reports of at least 3-4 suicides each month from the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

Organizations like AAF and Cordaid hope that with the expansion of their MHPSS program to other areas, people suffering from mental illness or suicidal thoughts will be able to access the specialized care that is now available to them.

To let people know about the new programming, AAF carries out regular awareness campaigns around Shingal city to notify the public of their services and tell people where they can go to receive treatment. Additionally, the local community is being educated on how to detect mental illness in family members or friends so that they may refer them for treatment if necessary.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, runs a hospital in Sinune, Shingal Region. They published a report in October indicating that their hospital has received a high number of cases involving suicide or attempted suicide.

“The Yazidi community in Sinjar [Shingal] district, northwestern Iraq, is grappling with a severe and debilitating mental health crisis, including a high number of suicides and suicide attempts,” reports MSF.

Between April and August of this year, 24 patients who had attempted suicide were brought into their emergency room. Approximately half of them were female and under the age of 18.

Of the 24 patients received, six of those died. The youngest death was a 13-year-old girl who had hung herself.

MSF states in the report that, “mental health services are overwhelmed.”

During a seminar that Fatima attended in early December presented by AAF at Sinjar General Hospital on Gender Based Violence, another local woman began wailing and rocking back and forth in her chair, remembering the pain she had endured under ISIS captivity.

Fatima was there by her side, with one arm around her shoulders, comforting the woman until she calmed down. Fatima’s strength in that moment was the result of the mental health treatment she herself has been receiving.

Although Fatima’s story is one of success, there still remains a substantial gap in MHPSS services across Iraq, particularly within the Shingal Yezidi community. Until this gap is filled, mental illness will remain a crisis in the country and chances of suicide or attempted suicide will remain commonplace.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/261220192
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:08 pm

Children in miracle return

End of the decade: UK charity the AMAR Foundation brings Yazidi music to camps to help bring back hope

Five years after they were taken by ISIS, Yazidi youngsters Rahima and Dawood managed to escape from their captors and returned home a few months ago.

As the new decade was dawning, Iraq’s Yazidi community was targeted as never before. Bombing campaigns focused on the northern town of Sinjar left hundreds of Yazidis dead and thousands more injured.

At the time four-year-old Rahima and her five-year-old brother Dawood were living with their parents on a smallholding by the edge of town tending to the family’s chickens and goats.

Their father, Salim, made extra money working as a labourer as they attended the local school.

Although the area was in the shadow of constant fear, their parents strived to give them a loving home. But there was worse to come in 2014 when ISIS terrorists invaded Sinjar to ravage, kill and kidnap thousands of Yazidis from their homeland.

Of the 6,800 abducted, a third were Yazidi children under 14 – including Rahima and Dawood, then nine and 10. Many of those taken were forced to be sex slaves and today 3,400 people remain unaccounted for.

Salim was working elsewhere but returned to find his home destroyed and his family taken.

For years he waited, fearing the worst. Then, a few months ago, as ISIS strongholds collapsed, Rahima and Dawood managed to escape.

Rahima was sold to an ISIS fighter for $500 (Dh1,836) and taken to his home, where she was forced to work as a maid for the man and his four wives.

Her brother has never spoken about his ordeal. Their mother has not been heard of since. Now they are living in a shack by Khanke camp near Dohuk.

When asked what she wishes for most, Rahima said:

“I hope that one day I will see my mother again.”

With the help of a British charity called the Amar Foundation, this family is one of many whose lives are gradually being rebuilt in a number of makeshift camps in northern Iraq.

Sadly, their story is a common one across the displacement camps. Amar is spending thousands of pounds a month on bringing medical aid and providing counselling and schooling for the victims.

Rahima and Dawood “were regularly beaten and fed little”, said Robert Cole, global head of communications at Amar. “As the end of ISIS came, they eventually managed to escape and were reunited with their father. Both are now having regular sessions with specially trained psychologists in our clinic, and are already responding to treatment.

“There are huge challenges to the rehabilitation of these children, though. Their devastating experiences have happened at the most vulnerable age.”

Amar relies on donations to keep the clinics running. It costs $15,000 a month, to provide medical care and disease control through vital vaccinations. It’s a cost that works out at just $1 per patient a month.

As an increasing number of harrowing stories emerge of youngsters being tortured and used as ISIS sex slaves, the need for counselling is growing.

In a new initiative, the charity is helping the young camp survivors to come to terms with their ordeals through music.

The genocide carried out by ISIS almost destroyed their heritage but through funding Amar is reviving Yazidi traditions and teaching the next generation about its ancient culture.

One camp choir formed of many sexual abuse survivors is bringing its work to the UK to perform in Westminster Abbey next year to thank the British Council for its support.

Smiling in the ranks of the singers it is hard to believe that just two years ago Rainas Elias, now 19, was living in fear of her life, enduring daily bombing raids and being used as an ISIS slave.

Aged 14, she fled her village in Sinjar with her family when ISIS militants arrived in 2014.

The day after she was abducted, Rainas was taken to Syria and over the next three years was sold three times to different men until her family were eventually able to pay a smuggler to bring her home.

“I still have very bad dreams of those days, but I remember that nothing can be as bad, ever again,” she said.

Her story is similar to those of many of her fellow choir members.

Asia Elias, 15, was kidnapped when she was 11 and forced into ISIS slavery.

For three and a half years she was moved around by the terrorists and was forced by her rapists to marry five times.

Her escape was only made possible by her parents who paid a ransom for her release.

She now lives in the Khanke camp with them but her sister and brothers are still among the missing.

The choir has also helped in her recovery.

Mr Cole said: “Bringing music to the camps has been an amazing therapy for them. To see the smiles on their faces again makes it all worthwhile.

“Hundreds of women and girls have needed psychological support. We go into the camps run by the regional Kurdistan authority and the UN ... We have seen girls as young as nine who have been abused by ISIS.

Amar provides medical help and psychological support in the camps and is now bringing music back to the community. It has boosted morale immensely.”

The music initiative started in May and is now helping 800 people.

The project is being funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund to record, protect and teach the endangered music for future generations of Yazidis.

Mr Cole said: “The genocidal campaign by ISIS against the Yazidis has had a significant impact on their musical heritage. Among the thousands of Yazidis the group murdered were musicians, and it also made a point of destroying traditional Yazidi instruments in an effort to eliminate not just the Yazidis but their culture too.

“Compounding these issues, Yazidism is an oral religion and culture, and its music and songs have historically not been written down.

“During the project, Amar has recorded religious music at Lalish, the home of the Yazidi faith, and folk music in and around the camps of northern Iraq, where thousands of Yazidis continue to live. It has made more than 100 recordings, interviewed musicians, and filmed and photographed performances.

“This material will be archived at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Dohuk University, and the Sulaymaniyah Museum in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, ensuring that the music is protected for future generations of Yazidis, as well as people interested in learning more about their culture.”

The project has been led by a British classical violinist called Michael Bochmann, who has visited the region five times in the last few months to record most of music himself.

British classical violinist Michael Bochmann MBE has visited the camps to help teach and record the Yazidi music.

Mr Bochmann, who is based at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, said: “Yazidis have their own unique religion and the music goes back over 5,000 years. It is immensely important to preserve it in the first instance for the Yazidi people themselves, but also for posterity.

“Music is a great healing, therapeutic force. Hundreds of young Yazidis are being taught by teachers of the older generation to play the traditional tambour and daf and also to sing. As a professional musician I feel very moved as I can see that the real essence of music is being enacted – bringing people together, interacting and giving them confidence.

“We are slightly moving away from tradition in one way – whereas nearly all Yazidi traditional musicians are male, almost half of the new pupils are female.”

The project in Iraq has received funding from the British Council’s £30 million (Dh142.6m) Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the UK government’s

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The fund was established to protect cultural heritage that at risk due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Five years after they were taken by ISIS, Yazidi youngsters Rahima and Dawood managed to escape from their captors and returned home a few months ago.
End of the decade: UK charity the AMAR Foundation brings Yazidi music to camps to help bring back hope

https://www.thenational.ae/world/stolen ... e-1.956744
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Dec 30, 2019 1:32 am

YAZIDIS NEED HELP

Winder is coming to Sinjar

Yazidis need warm clothes for adults and children especially shoes and socks

Warm blankets

Toys for children

WE NEED COLLECTION POINTS

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WE NEED PEOPLE AND LORRIES TO DELIVER

Some collections stuck in Germany

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:42 am

Hade S Shingaly

2014 to 5 January 2020

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The start of another winter for the Yezidis living in rotting old tents on Mount Sinjar.

Image

Since 2014 we have had to endure these conditions.

Every year there is not enough fuel for heat to keep our children warm.

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Once again I ask:
    Could you live in these conditions?
Once again I say:
    We are not looking for a hand out, We are asking for a hand up out of these situations.
#STANDWITHYEZIDIS.
#Shingal_mountain.
#Sardashte_camp.

Link to Video:

https://www.facebook.com/hade.said/vide ... 102659581/

This is NOT media propaganda
This is real and it is happening NOW

Soon:
    the winds will become stronger
    the snow will become deeper
    the cold will become bitter
Please follow Hade S Shingaly on facebook

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:14 am

Battle Against ISIS

My recent journey through northern Iraq revealed how fragile the region remains, and how extremism could once again take root

Last month, as I traveled through Baghdad and northern Iraq on a trip facilitated by the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Iraqi government marked the second anniversary of its victory over ISIS. Yet our journey — from the rubble of western Mosul, to the now-silent Sunni side of Tel Afar, to isolated tribal areas on the Syrian border — revealed the enduring physical and psychological devastation wrought by ISIS. Left unaddressed, the group’s painful legacy of human suffering, trauma, and displacement could usher in ISIS 2.0.

The timing of the U.S. decision to kill Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani could not have been worse. Even if the drone strike does not lead to war with Iran, it has already led U.S. forces to pause anti-ISIS operations. U.S. forces may yet be ejected from Iraq, and with them the best hope of staving off the return of ISIS and its challenge to regional and global stability. This must not be forgotten as U.S. leaders consider their next steps.

Our delegation traveled across Erbil, Dohuk and Ninewa provinces, observing ISIS’ messy aftermath. The ruins of west Mosul rival the worst of World War II-era destruction. Blocks of the city are still rubble.

Elsewhere, an eerie absence served as a reminder of ISIS’s chaos. Driving through the mixed Sunni-Shia town of Tel Afar, the Sunni side of town lay empty. Numerous Iraqi Shia armed group flags were fluttering, a testament both to the return of the city’s Shia population and the distant prospect that its Sunni residents will be back anytime soon.

At the western edge of Ninewa, near the Syrian border, we came to a desolate village. Sandbagged ISIS military positions were evident in the wreckage of destroyed homes. We had lunch with Sunni tribe members, who told us that their isolated community feels abandoned by the Iraqi government, and tainted, in the eyes of some Iraqis, as ISIS sympathizers.

Across Iraq, local demographics are shifting. Some six million Iraqis fled the chaos unleashed by ISIS. Nearly 1.5 million remain displaced, the vast majority in northern provinces. They are the hardest cases: people unlikely to return home soon out of fear or stigma.

In Dohuk, we visited an internally displaced persons camp built for Yazidis who sought refuge from the genocide committed by ISIS. Established in December 2014, this camp had an air of permanence with concrete living structures and its dirt roads lined with little shops. We drove through during the “evening rush” as many camp residents were returning home from work in the nearby community.

As with most Iraqi Yazidis, they are reluctant to return to their homes in Sinjar, fearful of nearby Sunni communities and distrustful of security forces who failed to protect them from ISIS

The situation is even bleaker for those families who are expected to eventually return from the Al Hol camp in Syria; most will be ostracized given their perceived ISIS affiliations. The Iraqi government’s current plan is to hold these returning people in a refurbished camp, isolated from their home communities. Such long-term encampment would virtually guarantee a second generation of ISIS.

Nearly everyone we encountered was bearing invisible wounds, powerful reminders of the human toll taken by ISIS occupation. Everyone has a story to tell, although not all are able to tell them. In Mosul, horrific descriptions of life under ISIS occupation would occasionally surface: friends lost to ISIS brutality; children witnessing unspeakable crimes; families subsisting on grass during Mosul’s besiegement.

One local aid worker recounted an agonizing three-year separation from his family. As ISIS arrived, the family fled to a nearby town, only to fall back under ISIS control a week later as the group extended its reign. The aid worker left the town to help with UN operations and found himself cut off from his family, unable to see them for three years until Mosul was liberated.

The Yazidi community suffers from particularly deep trauma. Young Yazidi women kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves by ISIS suffer from depression and suicide. Those who had children by ISIS fighters must give their children up if they return to their community. Many Yazidi women are still missing in Syria. Other Yazidi victims remain buried in mass graves, and the community is seeking the accelerated return of the remains of their loved ones so that they may get closure.

This bleak landscape is not without its bright spots. The UN Refugee Agency, the UN Development Program, and other U.S.-funded organizations are helping people to return home. They are stabilizing ISIS-liberated areas, restoring essential services such as water and electricity, rehabilitating schools and hospitals, and repairing damaged homes. Several groups are also seeking to address other needs including job creation and psychosocial assistance. A project we visited at the Dohuk camp helps Yazidi women earn an income through a new restaurant that features traditional Yazidi dishes.

Much remains to be done, and urgently. The United States should move to repair its ties with the Iraqi government to forestall the forced exit of U.S. forces from Iraq. Washington should then work closely with Baghdad to relieve the conditions that fomented the rise of ISIS and allow Iran to deepen its influence. Ultimately, the United States and Iran must de-escalate tensions, ideally by reinvigorating diplomatic channels. The current Iraqi government crisis must also be resolved with the selection of an interim prime minister followed by new elections.

In the long term—assuming this moment of crisis can be overcome—U.S. leadership will be essential for catalyzing international efforts to address the many facets of Iraq’s post-ISIS recovery. Improving governance, addressing widespread trauma and fostering reconciliation across the many communities impacted by ISIS’s reign of terror will not only help ensure against ISIS’s resurgence but also serve as the most effective hedge against Iranian influence.

Donors should invest more in humanitarian relief for the 1.5 million displaced Iraqis who remain outside of their homes or have recently returned to their villages, as well as community reconciliation and psychosocial programming; these efforts can be ongoing regardless of the political turmoil in Baghdad.

Finally, the Iraqi government must be dissuaded from separating and encamping families with perceived ISIS affiliations, including those returning from Al Hol camp in Syria. Instead, efforts should focus on disengaging all but those responsible for ISIS atrocities and reintegrating them into their home communities as the country rebuilds.

https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2020/0 ... ef=d-river
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