Yazidis ask for help, hold onto hope

by Chris Dunker – Aug 3, 2015 Updated Oct 5, 2016 – Lincoln Journal Star

My cmnt: Part of my interest in these people is from having an extended Yazidi family living next door to me since 2017. Their story is one of persevering, maintaining a positive outlook and overcoming. They value education and work and are contributing citizens and good neighbors.

My cmnt: Obama was responsible for a lot of this violence against Yazidis and Kurds.

Trump Crushed the ISIS CaliphateObama’s premature and reckless decision (with many warning against it) to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 sparked a massive power vacuum that set the Middle East ablaze like few had ever seen. It spawned the dramatic rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror movement and ultimately the violence spread across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria and many other nations. According to Obama though, ISIS was merely the J.V., and he therefore ignored and allowed ISIS to run loose in the Middle East for years – directly and indirectly causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And yes, that included Americans as well. 

Remember the Syrian Civil War, Libyan Civil War, Benghazi attacks, mass killings in Sinjar, massacres of Yazidis and Kurds, endless YouTube videos of innocents in orange outfits being beheaded, and gay people being thrown off buildings? At its peak, the ISIS Caliphate governed over 11 million people in Syria and Iraq in a territory that was larger in size than the United Kingdom. All because Obama wouldn’t admit his 2011 mistake and change course. When President Trump took over in 2017 he refused to continue with Obama’s policy of toying with “ISIL”. Instead, Trump ordered his generals to annihilate ISIS.  In short order, the Islamic State was in ruins and their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead.

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Khudayda Aldakhi keeps a list of the last-known whereabouts of more than 60 family members he believes were taken captive by the Islamic State a year ago (2015).

“My cousin was taken to Syria and the last time we heard from her was months ago,” Aldakhi said. “My other cousin was captured three months after the third of August. My brother was captured but escaped, same with my uncle.”

He goes on and on, telling stories many of the thousand or so Yazidis living in Lincoln can relate to, stories of savage executions and torment.

Nazeera Elias remembers talking to a friend, Imil, days before ISIS swept into the northern Iraq region of Sinjar on Aug. 3, 2014.

“We talked about visiting one another soon, and she said there was no danger,” Elias said. “Then ISIS captured her, and after they raped her and used her, she killed herself.”

At a rally at the Nebraska State Capitol on Monday, more than 300 of the Yazidis living in Lincoln gathered to remember those killed by the Islamist terrorists over the past year and ask for the U.S.’s help in rescuing an estimated 3,000 Yazidi women and children believed to still be captives.

“There was no real action to save the people taken by ISIS and that is disappointing,” said Aldakhi, 35, who moved to the U.S. in 2013. “No one wants to do anything for a minority in Iraq, not even the Kurdistan government or the main Iraqi government.”

The catch-22 for Lincoln’s Yazidis drives their frustration and sense of helplessness.

The Yazidis count 74 genocides against their people from the time of the Ottoman Empire in the 13th century, including one instigated by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.

Many times they are the targets of extremist Islamic groups because they worship the angel Melek Taus, although their religion has been intertwined with Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Seeing the U.S. as a legitimate force capable of removing Hussein from power, Yazidis like Aldakhi worked alongside American and coalition forces as interpreters during the Iraq War.

For their help, the U.S. issued them special immigrant visas, allowing thousands of Yazidis to relocate to cities like Lincoln — which contains the highest concentration of the religious minority in the country — but the 500,000 Yazidis left behind when the U.S. withdrew became targets for extremist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

The U.S. (i.e., Obama) has done little to help the captive Yazidi women and children, Aldakhi and fellow interpreter Salman Haji say, although thousands of airstrikes against Islamic State targets killed a reported 15,000 members of the group.

“It has been a year, but there is no change. Nothing,” said Haji, who was a pharmacist in Iraq before joining the corps of interpreters. “They do not have basic needs like food or shelter, but what they really need is international protection.”

Haji said the Yazidis do not expect American soldiers to shoulder the fight. If a people are unwilling to fight for their own lives, no one else should take up arms for them, he said, although he pointed out small pockets of Yazidi forces have held off Islamic State militants near Mount Sinjar.

“The U.S. government, coalition forces, the international community should help support those people in need and who cannot protect themselves,” he said.

Aldakhi agreed, saying many Yazidis hope “the U.S. will support the Yazidi fighters on the Sinjar Mountain who can fight back against ISIS and who maybe save and bring back our girls.”

On Monday, Massoud Barzani, leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region that spills into parts of Syria and Turkey, promised to liberate Yazidi lands near Sinjar but Haji remained skeptical.

Too often, he said, Yazidis have been promised protection from the Kurdish Peshmerga — who fled ISIS without firing a shot, leaving the Yazidis defenseless — or politicians in the Middle East who cowed before the group.

But there is hope, too, Aldakhi said.

Every so often word travels by phone or social media that one of the Yazidis held captive by ISIS has escaped and made it to relative safety. Some have fled into Turkey, others have made it out of the region.

That’s why it’s important to Lincoln’s Yazidis to publicly show solidarity with the victims and lift a single voice that could help rally support — from the U.S. government or beyond.

“We know they’re alive, we know they’re suffering, so we have hope that someone can help and bring them back,” Aldakhi said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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