YEREVAN (Mediamax)—On Aug. 3, Islamic State (IS) militants attacked and took over Sinjar, a Kurdish-controlled town historically home to a community of Yazidis.
As a result, thousands were killed, thousands more became captives or went missing, and dozens of thousands fled their homes.
Mirza Ismail is the Chairman of the Yazidi Human Rights Organization based in Canada. He is currently working in Washington, D.C., meeting with U.S. officials, and trying to find a solution to save the Yazidi population of Iraq.
Mediamax reporter Narine Daneghian interviewed Mirza Ismail. The full transcript of the interview is below.
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NARINE DANEGHIAN: Was the IS attack on the Yazidi population of Iraq a surprise for Yazidis or was it an expected act?
MIRZA ISMAIL: This is not the first time the Yezidis have faced genocide. There have been 74 genocides against the Yazidis, just because we Yazidis practice an ancient faith that is different from Islam. The IS attack was expected when they took control over the Iraqi-Syrian border and the towns of Baaj [34 km south of Sinjar] and Talafar [about 37 km east of Sinjar].
Prior to the IS attack against the Yazidis in the Sinjar region on July 17, we [a Yezidi Delegation] came to Washington, D.C., had meetings with three House representatives and the U.S. State Department Office of Religious Freedom. At the meetings, we explained the situation of Iraq’s Yazidis and the fact that they were surrounded by IS who had already killed many of them.
For the Yazidis themselves the attack happened suddenly, but the Kurdish Regional Government [KRG] officials were aware of it, and their militias did not fight against IS. The KRG also withdrew its militias from the Sinjar region just prior to the attack and they also refused to give Yazidis any weapons to defend themselves against the IS.
N.D.: The KRG has called on the international community to deliver military aid for fighting against the IS. Should the KRG expect positive responses from the West?
M.I.: That is true, the KRG has asked the US, UK and EU as well for support with high technology weapons. I think the EU has already agreed, but the US is still thinking about it. However, this was a plan by the KRG to leave the Yazidi and Christian areas of Sinjar region and the Nineveh Plain in order to get support with good weapons, by convincing the West that if they had good weapons they would be able to protect the minorities. But it is not true at all, because the KRG has been able to defend Erbil and take the Mosul Dam back from the IS with the same weapons. So here is a question: why did the KRG not fight against IS in Sinjar and the Nineveh Plain regions?
N.D.: According to many analysts, the IS is sponsored by the Turkish state. What goal is Turkey trying to achieve by these kind of actions?
M.I.: Turkey has a very good relationship with the KRG. I think Turkey has sponsored the IS because they are Sunnis and that they are against the Regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. This is not something new, the conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites has been there for centuries. From my own perspective, the Sunnis are scared of the Abbasi State (including Iran, Iraq and Syria) to come back. If these three countries unite under the Shiite Islamic State, it could become very powerful and later could destroy the Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia. That’s why these Sunni countries created the IS or Islamic Khalifat that would fight against Iran, Iraq and Syria not to become a strong Shiite State.
N.D..: Are Yazidis happy with the reaction of international community or do they think that international society could do more?
M.I.: No, the Yazidis are not happy with the International community’s reaction. Of course, they could do more. They have not stopped the IS from killing the Yazidis. The situation gets worse day by day.
Presently, there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Yazidis in the KRG regions, who sleep in streets, parks, schools, open fields, etc. The International aid has not reached 50% of those displaced Yazidis. Young babies die every day of starvations and lack of medical care.
N.D..: Armenia is the 5th country with the largest Yazidi population (35,000). How can Armenia help Iraqi Yazidis?
M.I..: We think that Armenia should be the first country to send humanitarian aid to Iraqi Yazidis, because the Armenians, Yazidis, and Chaldo-Assyrians in the past have gone together through many difficult times and Armenians know how it looks and feels to face a total genocide. Any humanitarian aid is greatly appreciated. The Yazidis and Armenians have saved each other in the past and I think Armenia can save more Yazidis in this difficult and dire situation.
N.D.: What is happening currently with the Yazidi population of Iraq is being compared with the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Is history repeating 100 years later?
M.I.: Well, at the same time with the Armenian Genocide in 1915, there was a genocide against Yazidis, during which 350 thousands Yazidis were killed.
My grandfather was from Urfa and he escaped the genocide and fled to Syria and then to Iraq. Though at that time , the Turks and Kurds did not have as technologically advanced weapons as today, there is not much difference between the past and the current situation. That time’s killings and beheadings are being repeated by the IS today. But in 1915 we did not have the UN and NATO, who are nowadays responsible for peace among nations, but are still failing to protect the Yazidis.
N.D.: While raising awareness about the recent tragedy facing Iraq’s Yazidis, what would you like to say to the international community at this moment?
M.I.: The whole world is aware that total genocide against the most peaceful nation is taking place today. We can’t force the international community to do more. As Yazidis maybe we deserve this 74th genocide in the 21 century or maybe God created us by mistake, and that Islam is trying to correct God’s mistake… maybe that is why the world is not taking our issue seriously.
There’s another threat to the Yazidis. Those who were able to escape the IS and have reached the KRG controlled area, are facing assimilation into Kurdish culture.