Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iraq's Only Yazidi Lawmaker Seeks US Help

Vian Dakhil is the only Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament. She has been working to help tens of thousands of other Yazidis who are trapped in areas overrun by the Islamic State militants or who have fled the militants. She visited VOA's Kurdish Service, Dec. 11, 2014.

Islamic State militants declare most people in their path infidels, but seem to reserve a special wrath for those of the Yazidi faith.

In their advance across Iraq, IS fighters have summarily shot and killed Yazidi men, kidnapped women and girls, and boasted of selling them as slaves. Recent IS guidelines detail the types of sexual and other assault to which slaves may be subjected.

Yazidis are ethnic Kurds whose ancient, monotheistic religion has links to Zoroastrianism.

Vian Dakhil is trying desperately to enlist more help for the endangered minority. The sole Yazidi member of Iraq's parliament, Dakhil is in Washington this week talking to lawmakers and administration officials about what she calls "the most critical crisis facing our people in our long and painful history."

Dakhil wants immediate help for what she says are up to 3,000 people held hostage, for the hundreds of families still trapped by militants on Mount Sinjar and for the nearly half million Yazidis who have taken refuge in camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. She said they lack sufficient food or shelter to get them through the winter.

She told VOA's Kurdish service about her meetings with Washington officials: "All of them agree with me that it's a bad situation."

Seeking another assist

The United States has stepped up before. The plight of Yazidis trapped by IS fighters in August led to a U.S.-led rescue mission. Dakhil bears the scars of those efforts; she walks with a crutch after being injured in a helicopter crash on Mount Sinjar.

Dakhil wants weapons sent to help the small number of Yazidi fighters remaining on Mount Sinjar, who, along with Kurdish Peshmerga forces, are locked in a standoff with IS militants.

Yazidis have suffered repeated bouts of discrimination over the centuries, in particular by Arab Muslims who misunderstand their faith.

Faith hinders Yazidis on the current international front as well, Dakhil said. She told lawmakers Christians in Iraq have a powerful lobby and support from European nations and the Vatican.

"We do not have advocates," she said.

But the plight of Yazidi women and girls has caught the world's attention. Dakhil wants the compassion translated into action to free them. Reminded that the U.S. has ruled out placing troops in combat positions in Iraq, Dakhil told VOA she couldn't suggest what should be done. But with an outsized faith in American capabilities, she insisted "the U.S. military can do this."

She said she'll continue to advocate on the Yazidis' behalf however she can. Her first order of business on returning to Iraq, she said, is to start setting up rehabilitation programs for the few Yazidi women and girls who have managed to escape from Islamic State slavery.