October 23, 2018
Wilberforce A!ert: Picking up the pieces in Iraq
Four years ago, ISIS terrorists enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls in Iraq. At the tender age of 21, Nadia Murad was one of the many women captured and forced into the ISIS slave trade. After escaping and migrating to Germany, she has demonstrated incredible courage by telling audiences around the world about the suffering endured by the Yazidi community. She has published a memoir titled, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. Earlier this month, she was one of two recipients awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. She bravely speaks out against the crimes ISIS committed against her people and in particular, Yazidi women.
In the wake of her own personal trauma, Nadia is helping her community pick up the pieces. During a recent interview conducted by NPR, Nadia was asked what she now hopes will be achieved. She cited three things: reconstruction of the Yazidi homeland in Sinjar, security so Yazidis can return, and justice for her people by classifying the atrocities of ISIS as war crimes. Nadia’s message is clear: “The Yazidi people just want to live in peace and feel safe.”
Following the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, recent and noteworthy initiatives have developed to offer hope to Nadia, Yazidis, Christians and all religious minorities who have suffered at the hands of ISIS in Iraq.
First, the U.S. announced over $178 million in new U.S. foreign assistance to support reintegrating persecuted ethnic and religious minority communities in Iraq. Implementation, directed by the U.S. Department of State and USAID, will depend on close partnerships with local faith and community leaders on the ground in Iraq. To that end, USAID has dispatched Max Primorac as “special representative for minority assistance programs” to Iraq, and Administrator Mark Green has met with religious leaders in the region, including the Chaldean patriarch in Rome.
Second, the Senate passed H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017. This legislation, which is expected to reach the president’s desk for signature before the end of the year, aims to ensure that aid reaches threatened religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria.
And finally, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who represents America’s largest Yazidi community, introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. government to develop a security plan for religious minorities in northern Iraq. H. Res. 1117 calls for a coordinated and implementable plan for stabilization and security in the region. “Financial assistance must be combined with a clear plan that ensures sustainable security in the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar,” said Fortenberry. “At least three million Iraqis have been displaced from northern Iraq, and many are urgently seeking stability and safety in their ancestral homelands.”
Further fueling hope for Iraq is the aid delivered and the work accomplished by many NGOs and faith-based organizations. Since 2014, for example, the Knights of Columbus has committed more than $20 million in aid to Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and the surrounding region for medical clinics, food programs and rebuilding. The organization’s ongoing relationship with USAID is designed to further assist minority communities in the region.
Meanwhile, the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, an umbrella group formed in 2017, helps Catholic and Orthodox churches of Iraq with humanitarian and stabilization assistance. Other NGOs, including Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Blessing, Aid to the Church in Need, and the SALT Foundation-Iraq among others, have raised significant funds for humanitarian and rebuilding efforts in Iraq.
The hard work of rebuilding and reconstruction in Iraq will take years to complete, but the process has begun. A fragile but renewed hope is emerging as restoration among Iraq’s most vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities has started.
Lou Ann Sabatier, Director of Communications
- Read Nadia Murad’s gripping account of the genocide against the Yazidi people
- Learn how H.R. 390 will bring relief to Syria and Iraq
- Encourage Congress to pass H. Res. 1117