Netanyahu, please help the Yazidi people

Over 3,000 Yazidi women and girls remain enslaved throughout the Middle East.

YAZIDI STUDENTS play last month near the psychotherapy center in the Rawanga camp in Iraq. (photo credit: REUTERS)
YAZIDI STUDENTS play last month near the psychotherapy center in the Rawanga camp in Iraq.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Although headlines across the globe are focused on Iran’s growing influence in Syria, the aftermath of the US relocating its embassy to Jerusalem and the escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is very important that we as Jews and Israelis not lose sight of the fact that in our region, there is an ancient faith that, according to the Yazidi tradition, dates back to before Noah’s Ark, and which urgently needs our support at this critical hour.
The Yazidis have experienced 74 genocides throughout their history, including the recent one implemented by Islamic State (ISIS), and despite the great gains made by the international coalition against ISIS, the Yazidis are still in a horrible situation.
According to the Rudaw Media Network, two thirds of the Yazidi population remain in refugee camps, unable to return home. In addition, according to local sources, 90% of the Yazidis remain unemployed due to the after-effects of the ISIS genocide. Local sources claim that 17,000 Yazidis were murdered and 7,450 kidnapped and enslaved, with the women and girls being repetitively raped and the young boys indoctrinated into turning against their own people so they can be used as cannon fodder.
The scars of the ISIS genocide have still not healed. Lisa Miara, the founder of the Springs of Hope Foundation, told Voice of America, “The situation of the Yazidis in Iraq is of great concern. It is an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. […] Some villages are still unreachable and no major effort has been made to enable thousands of Yazidis to restore their lives and businesses.”
Local sources report that many Muslims refuse to hire Yazidis. One Yazidi, who is a baker, stated that his Muslim employers in Iraq fired him on three separate occasions once they learned that he is Yazidi.
Secondly, aside from the discrimination issue, many of the Yazidis are still living in tents and many of these tents are not safe. A 17-year-old girl was killed when a fire destroyed one of these tents, and last week on Mount Sinjar there was a flood that destroyed hundreds of tents. Local sources complain that no one came to help them except for one Hindu organization that replaced 10 tents, and that it is very difficult to function under these conditions.
According to Yazidi sources, the Yazidi areas in Iraq are still lacking critical resources such as water, electricity, access to medical care and educational services. In addition, according to Voice of America, more than 70% of the Yazidi homes have been destroyed and many of the Yazidi temples that were destroyed by ISIS have not been rebuilt yet.
In a special letter that Yazidi leader Sheikh Mirza Ismail sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he stated, “Over 3,000 Yazidi girls are still enslaved throughout the Middle East. Surviving family members receive demands to pay huge funds for their release. Otherwise, they will be resold deeper into the Middle East, or just killed. Yazidis who managed to survive the 2014 massacre are abused by the Muslim authorities in UN camps. Yazidi villages remain laden with bombs while ISIS and other Muslim collaborators return to live nearby. We plead with you for tzedakah – justice, not charity.”
In an exclusive interview, Ismail noted that ever since the Free Syrian Army backed by Turkey took over the Afrin region in Syria, Yazidi women have been compelled to wear the hijab, and that in his opinion this is the first step before the Yazidis are either forcefully converted to Islam or ethnically cleansed from the Afrin region.
“The Yazidis in Afrin are being kidnapped by different groups, referred to as unknown groups, who could be the FSA or the Turkish Army. So many Yazidis are entering into UN refugee camps in Turkey because they do not see a future. We escaped from one hell to another. The international community is not helping. That is the worst thing.”
The internationally acclaimed Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar believes Israel should take concrete steps to help the Yazidis, including building a field hospital for them on Mount Sinjar. He believes that Israel should listen to Yazidi leaders and ask them what they need. According to Ismail, a small mobile walk-in clinic or hospital with up to 50 beds on Mount Sinjar is of critical importance, and he would like for Israel to provide this to his people.
He also seeks to help Yazidis to receive medical attention outside of Iraq and since Israel has an excellent healthcare system in addition to being geographically close to Iraq, he also would like for Israel to help his people in this regard. In his letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ismail also requests international assistance in freeing the Yazidi women and children still held captive by ISIS, assistance in restoring stolen Yazidi lands to their rightful owners, international aid that will help the Yazidis to defend themselves and a meeting with US President Donald Trump or US Vice President Mike Pence.
He believes that Israel can help his people with all of these, which the Yazidis need desperately.
Therefore, at this critical juncture, it is time for Prime Minister Netanyahu to take the strategic step of helping the Yazidi people in Iraq and Syria. Doing so is not only ethical but also in Israel’s strategic interests, for the stronger the Yazidis and other minority groups are in Iraq and Syria, the weaker the Iranian axis will be.
The author is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent at the Israel Resource News Agency. She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.