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'Help us': Has the US abandoned Iraq's ISIS-targeted Yazidis?

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Vian Dakhil is used to living with threats against her life.

As the only female Yazidi lawmaker in Iraq's parliament, she has been told she is a high priority for assassination or abduction by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. But she says she is willing to take to take that risk, if she can continue her work.

"I know I am not safe. I’m not safe. I can’t think about myself or my security. No, my goal is: how can I help those people?"

'Those people' are the Yazidis, a minority community in northern Iraq who follow their own ancient religion. Since last year, Islamic State have used that religion as a justification to murder, rape and enslave thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled into refugee camps in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. A recent UN report concluded that the ISIS campaign against the Yazidis may constitute "genocide, [...] crimes against humanity and war crimes."

Dakhil is now one of the few Yazidis with a voice on the world stage.

Last year, a film of her pleading for help for her community in the Iraqi parliament was shared on social media across the world. In the footage, Dakhil makes an impassioned plea for assistance, even as other lawmakers attempt to talk over her. Eventually she breaks down in tears, begging for military intervention.

Last year, President Barack Obama referred to that speech when he announced that he was authorising US air strikes against Islamic State to help the Yazidis.

Since then, Dakhil has focused on trying to help those Yazidi women and children who have managed to escape from ISIS. Their stories are harrowing.

The Islamic State's own publications boast of sexually enslaving Yazidi women and girls as a tactic of war. "We have many, many, many sad stories from those women" Dakhil says. "One I spoke to is only 15 years old. In one day, six of the ISIS [men] came into her room. Six of them raped this girl. And she told me this story [herself]."

There are also reports of Yazidi boys held by ISIS being brainwashed to abandon their religion and language, and being trained as ISIS fighters.

Dakhil says that she was grateful to the US for the military assistance that it provided last year, but that since then, the needs of the Yazidi refugees have being ignored. Basic supplies, including as food, water and medecine, are in short supply in the camps. And the safety of the area from the Islamic State is still not guaranteed. According to Dakhil, it is time for a renewed focus on assisting Iraq's minorities.

"We need international protection for this area. We need food, we need schools, we need everying. Help us."


From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International

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