Armenia Increases Aid to Persecuted Yazidis in Iraq

People from the Yezidi community, fleeing violence from Islamic State forces in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain. (Photo: Reuters)


YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian has added his voice to concerns about the plight of Iraq’s Yazidi community targeted by Islamist militants and told the Armenian government to provide them with more humanitarian aid than was initially planned.

Sarkisian discussed the issue with Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on Monday. According to the presidential press secretary, Arman Saghatelian, Abrahamian’s cabinet will increase “the initially planned volume” of relief later this week.

Responding to appeals from leaders of Armenia’s sizable Yazidi community, the government announced last week that it will send $50,000 worth of food to the displaced Iraqi Yazidis. It was expected to be delivered through a United Nations relief agency.

Saghatelian did not specify the monetary value of the increased aid allocation or whether it will include non-food items.

In remarks to the official Armenpress news agency, Sarkisian’s spokesman said the president considers the mass killings and deportations of the Yazidis “absolutely unacceptable” and believes that the international community must take “immediate steps to stop them as soon as possible.” He said Sarkisian has also instructed Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions abroad to “redouble their efforts to adequately raise the issue in the international arena.”

In a statement released on Friday, the Foreign Ministry said Armenian diplomats have received “directives to closely cooperate with stakeholders on this issue.” The statement came after a series of street protests staged by Yazidis in Yerevan. They said that the Armenian government has been slow to react to the continuing violence against their co-ethnics.

In a related development, a member of the Armenian delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Naira Zohrabian, said on Monday that she will raise the matter at next month’s session of the Strasbourg-based human rights body.

“There is no doubt that what is happening in northern Iraq now is a genocide of the Yazidi people, and the international community must take concrete steps to stop it,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Zohrabian, who is affiliated with the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party, spoke after meeting with some leaders of the Armenian Yazidis. She said they gave her documents which she will forward to Armenia’s ambassador to the UN.

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