Tags: Iraq | Iraq in Crisis | Yazidi | Iraq | Mount Sinjar | Americans

American Yazidis Stricken by Plight of Relatives in Iraq

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 03:56 PM

By John Blosser

The Yazidi in America, mostly living around Lincoln, Neb., daily hear by phone and Internet tales of atrocities committed against their relatives back in Iraq, where thousands of Yazidi remain trapped on the top of Mount Sinjar by forces of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) battling the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Peshmerga army, Politico reports.

And outside of desperately pleading with their relatives to escape any way they can, there's nothing they can do about it.

Dakhil Meskin recently learned by phone that his grandfather and uncle, who lived in a village near Mount Sinjar, were captured and beheaded. He had begged his grandfather to leave, but the old man refused.

Other Yazidis in the United States tell tales of hearing of a young girl raped by over 20 men, a small boy who hid in the garden while his parents were butchered by ISIS fighters, and a man who learned of his brother's death when he saw a photo on Facebook — of his brother's severed head.

"What age am I living in? It's the 21st century. Are these things still happening to us," asked Sabah Kousadi, a Yazidi who traveled to Washington with friends to lobby government agencies and representatives for help for his relatives back home.

However, Yazidi hopes for an evacuation of their families trapped on Mount Sinjar recently were dashed when the Pentagon announced that no such evacuation was likely to happen.

The Washington Post reported that a 20-man U.S. military team that visited Mount Sinjar reported back that conditions on the mountain were not as bad as believed. Many of the trapped Yazidi, according to The Guardian, had endured the grueling 14-mile hike in searing heat into Syria, where the International Rescue Committee is setting up a refugee camp.

No one is sure how many Yazidis are in Iraq — estimates range from 70,000 to 700,00, according to the Pew Research Center, which notes that they have been persecuted for generations because of their mixture of religious beliefs of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and their practice of selling alcohol. Last year, 10 Yazidis were murdered in Baghdad because they worked in a liquor store.

Roughly 510 Yazidis live in the United States, according to the Joshua Project.

The Obama administration launched four airstrikes against ISIS forces around Mount Sinjar and, a White House spokesman told the Guardian, "The president's decisive decisions in the immediate wake of the crisis kept people alive and broke the siege of the mountain."

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said, "An evacuation mission is far less likely."

More likely, according to the Washington Post, is increased provision of arms to Kurdish fighters battling ISIS, while the United States, which has provided humanitarian relief so far, is backing away from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and does not want to increase U.S. troop presence on the ground in Iraq.

Adanan Khalaf, 25, who escaped from Sinjar to Erbil, asked in Time magazine, "Where was America? They are telling us to become Muslims or die."

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