Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Yazidi refugees urge Australia to help save their minority community

Salwa Bashier

Yazidi refugees in Australia have called for more action to save their people in captivity or those living in camps after fleeing northern Iraq, after news of a massacre of 50 women.

A mass grave containing the bodies of dozens of people thought to have been Yazidis enslaved by ISIS was found in territory recently seized by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, with many of the victims women.

Yazidi communities in Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour and Toowoomba have held rallies to highlight the plight of the minority religious group, thousands of whom were taken captive by ISIS militants in 2014.

In Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast, about 80 Yazidi people gathered at a rally, holding photos of loved ones missing or killed during the ongoing oppression in northern Iraq by ISIS.

Salwa Bashier, who coordinated the vigil, said she was grateful for the support of the Australian Government, but that more needed to be done.

"A few weeks ago we had 11 children being killed in Syria. Now we have 50 women and girls killed. We're not feeling happy until all of these women are back from ISIS," Ms Bashier said.

In Toowoomba, hundreds of people attended a rally, including more than 80 Yazidi high school students.

Since humanitarian intakes from Syria and Iraq started in 2016, the Darling Downs city in Queensland has resettled hundreds of Yazidi families.

Nihad Barakt, from the Shingal region in northern Iraq, also known as Sinjar, now calls Toowoomba home.

"Today we stand here against the crimes that have happened against the Yazidi community in Baghuz — they found more than 50 heads that belong to Yazidi women in Baghuz," she said.

"Here we just ask everyone to help us."

Ms Barakt said she had experienced the brutality of ISIS firsthand.
"I was kidnapped by ISIS for a year and a half," she said.

"I saw many terrible things — they raped me and they hit me."

Another young Yazidi woman, Hayam Alkudher, said since ISIS attacked Shingal in 2014, killing thousands, many had felt abandoned in their own homeland.

"They kidnapped more than 6,000 Yazidi people, men, women and children," she said.

"We want everybody, the Australian Government, we want to ask the international organizations to help the Yazidi people."

At the event, Hayam held a photograph of her uncle's family who have been missing for five years.

"We don't know if they are alive or not," she said.

At a rally of about 300 people in Wagga, in southern NSW, Yazidis young and old carried photos depicting atrocities against their people and placards appealing for help from the international community as they rallied and then marched up the city's main street.

Haji Gundor, 17, said Australia should take in more Yazidi refugees.

"My message is for human rights organizations and especially for UN, because since 2014 they know what's happened to us but they have not done anything for us," he said.

He said he had made a direct appeal to the Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack but that he had so far been met with no response.

"Two months ago, I have met Mr Michael McCormack and I gave him our people's message, what they all they are feeling and what we need, but still now we haven't heard anything.

"They [ISIS] killed 7,000 men when they came to our place, but now they are starting to kill our women, last week they killed 50 women — it's the 74th genocide for our religion," he said.

Mr McCormack said he had written to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman on Haji's behalf.

"As many locals know, I was delighted to play a part to help Wagga Wagga welcome Yazidis who were seeking a new home and a new start in 2016 when I suggested our city as a place they would be welcome," Mr McCormack said in a statement.

"The city has opened its arms and I am delighted to continue to work with the Yazidi community — and the Wagga Wagga community as a whole — as these families call our city home.

"Wagga Wagga is — and always has been — an embracing community and the Yazidis have come to call Wagga Wagga their home and, in turn, they have enriched our community with their culture and traditions. This city has welcomed more Yazidi than anywhere else in Australia."

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said that in 2015, Australia had committed to resettling an additional 12,000 people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, with a focus on vulnerable people and persecuted minorities, including Yazidis, and that the program was completed in 2017.

More than 2,800 Yazidis had been granted visas under the Humanitarian Program.

The spokesperson said that Australia was one of only a few countries that specifically supported the resettlement of women at risk of victimisation, harassment or serious abuse because of their gender.

Tearful plea for help

At Wagga, Maryam Sloman, a teenager from Iraq, pleaded tearfully for intervention after the reports of the massacre.

"Today we're here together to beg Australia and the world to help these Yazidi women and kids, so please the world and Australia make the end of this war," she said.

Twenty-year-old Ziad Kermish from Iraq questioned how many more Yazidis would die before the world acted.

"For over four years, we have told the international community that our women and children are being captured, tortured, raped and killed and we have had no response," Mr Kermish said.

Wagga Multicultural Council CEO Belinda Crane said the day of remembrance was held internationally to highlight the plight of Yazidis, whose numbers totalled fewer than 1 million people.

"This is the 74th or 75th genocide the Yazidi community have faced — they're really concerned about becoming extinct in that every time something happens, the Yazidis are seen to be as if they're worthless and of no value," Ms Crane said.

"We need to keep raising the issue."

Atrocities 'beyond belief' 

Bev Fisher helped support a Yazidi family of seven — including five children — along with another child in Germany who the family was trying to bring to Australia.

"It's almost beyond belief for us who've been raised in this country, the atrocities they've suffered, but the resilience they have and the love they have for their community is just staggering and they love now being Australian," Ms Fisher said.

Yazidis have been settled in Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour, Toowoomba and Armidale, according to the Department of Social Services, which said anecdotal evidence from service providers indicated that their settlement was progressing smoothly and positively.

Tim Bamend, who has been a mentor for Mr Kermish, said Yazidi families were fragmented around the world, with many killed or captured, and the young people in Wagga felt that deeply.

"We've had Iraqi parliamentarians come out and support the message today and it's really a unified message that the Yazidi people are still suffering and that there are still atrocities going on," Mr Bamend said.

"There's just so much pain and suffering and you see that in the tears that were shed today and people recognizing this is their lives and their family they're crying out for."

Haji Gundor said he believed his people could be saved.

"I think it's possible because it's a very small religion and we have very small land, we are only less than 1 million people around the world and we are very small and most of us love their land and don't want to leave it, we want more hope."

Last Modified: Tuesday، 05 March 2019 10:47 AM
Read
Comments