A park in Lincoln, Nebraska is a favorite gathering place for the close to 1,000 people who constitute the largest Yazidi community in North America.
Many of the men served as translators for the U.S. military, which eased the way to asylum for them and their families. Others came through refugee assistance programs.
The Yazidi have found a peaceful, happy life here in Nebraska, but they cannot forget the suffering of their people back home.
Faisal, a Yazidi American, has not heard from his sister and her family in Iraq since Islamic State fighters seized them last year.
“I don’t think ever anything happened or anything came up as bad as the Islamic State to this world. This is the worst thing,” he said.
Through the Yazda organization, formed by Yazidi Americans last year, 18-year-old Feryal Pirali has posted an online petition to President Obama.
“We ask mister president, Barack Obama, to help us and the females, the girls, the women who have been captured and used as sex slavery,” said Pirali.
Yazda Vice President Hadi Pir said the Yazidi are in greater need of help than Syrian refugees.
“Syrian refugees are a temporary problem. It is going to be a temporary problem, but I believe the Yazidi situation is maybe even a permanent one. What if IS’ next move is inside Kurdistan territory? …All the Yazidis are concentrated there,” said Pir.
Yazidis are Kurdish-speaking Iraqi nationals, but many Muslims reject them as infidels because their religion borrows from many traditions.
The Yazidis differ from most other refugees in that Islamic State has specifically targeted them for genocide.
More than 90,000 petition signers have shown support for the Yazidi cause, but the United States, Russia and regional governments have yet to agree on a coordinated strategy against Islamic State, and the Yazidis remain just a small part of the Middle East’s refugee crisis.