Will meeting between Trump and Murad help Yazidis who survived ISIS?

Murad met Trump along with other survivors of religious discrimination, part of a larger State Department agenda that has sought to highlight religious freedom and persecution on the basis of faith.

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July 20, 2019 11:54
2 minute read.
Nadia Murad Basee Taha adresses the European Parliament during an award ceremony for the 2016 Sakhar

Nadia Murad Basee Taha adresses the European Parliament during an award ceremony for the 2016 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, December 13, 2016. (photo credit: VINCENT KESSLER/ REUTERS)

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad met US President Donald Trump on Thursday, pressing him to help half a million Yazidis who were displaced by ISIS genocide in 2014. Trump said he would look into the issue “very strongly,” but it was unclear if this cause would get Washington’s attention, despite years of activists like Murad asking for more support.

Murad met Trump along with other survivors of religious discrimination, part of a larger State Department agenda that has sought to highlight religious freedom and persecution on the basis of faith. Murad spoke to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at a luncheon in February, when up to seventy countries and groups in the coalition were present in the US. She also spoke at the United States Institute of Peace this month asking for aid to help Yazidis in northern Iraq.

Yet despite all the talk and lip service paid to commitments from the US, very little has been done in northern Iraq. Before the ISIS genocide, many of the half million Yazidis lived in towns and villages around Mount Sinjar, called Shingal in Kurdish. When the global jihadist group attacked in August 2014, many Yazidis fled to Sinjar mountain and were aided in escaping via Syria by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units. The brutality of ISIS, massacring men and selling women into slavery, caused US president Barack Obama to order air strikes on ISIS and support for the Yazidis, resulting in the larger anti-ISIS coalition that was eventually formed.

But while the coalition fought ISIS, the victims have been mostly left to rebuild their lives without international support. Many of the hundreds of thousands of Yazidis who fled live in camps in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Murad says that tens of thousands have moved abroad since the genocide.

Even though Kurdish Peshmerga forces liberated Sinjar from ISIS, and Iraqi security forces subsequently took over the area in 2017, Yazidis say that their situation lacks security and they cannot return to their villages. They lack basic health care services and infrastructure. It has taken years to even do forensic work on dozens of mass graves of Yazidi victims, where thousands were systematically murdered by ISIS. Some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing, Murad told Trump this week.

Former anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk wrote that Murad is a profile in courage and a reminder that work against ISIS and its legacy of terrorism and genocide is far from over. She met him on the sidelines of the Doha Forum last year and had told him a similar message she said to Trump. She also spoke to the International Religious Freedom ministerial event in the US in July 2018 and met US Vice President Mike Pence in October, all to press the same issue: help the Yazidis in Iraq, find the missing 3,000 and bring ISIS members to justice.

Pence tweeted last year about Nadia’s “dedication and bravery in standing up for victims of ISIS,” but like so many US officials, it is unclear whether the tweets resulted in sufficient action. Murad told Trump this week that Pence had helped “a lot,” but asked for more support and that France has also been supportive. She said it is important to see ISIS members on trial and brought to justice.


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