Canada can pro­vide Yazidis with hope for a new life

Calgary Sun - - COMMENT - — Rev. Ma­jed El Shafie is the pres­i­dent and founder of One Free World In­ter­na­tional (OFWI.org).

The suc­cess of driv­ing ISIS from Mo­sul is wel­comed news, but the work to re­build from the de­struc­tion ISIS in­flicted in its deadly cam­paign is just the be­gin­ning of a new hope.

Canada is uniquely po­si­tioned to as­sist the most vul­ner­a­ble sur­vivors, Yazidi girls and women who were en­slaved by ISIS, by re­set­tling those want­ing to come to Canada and giv­ing them the sup­port they need to re­build their lives.

The Yazidi peo­ple, rec­og­nized by Canada, the U.K., EU, U.S., and UN to be vic­tims of geno­cide, have borne some of the worst of ISIS’ bru­tal­ity. While the fall of Mo­sul shifts the mil­i­tary fo­cus to Raqqa, we can­not for­get last week’s third an­niver­sary of ISIS’ deadly as­sault on Mount Sin­jar.

Since ISIS be­gan its geno­ci­dal cam­paign, over 7,000 Chris­tian, Yazidi, and other mi­nor­ity women have been held cap­tive by ISIS. Forced into slav­ery and af­ter be­ing forced to watch their fathers, brothers, and hus­bands mur­dered. They were used as sex slaves, bought and sold mul­ti­ple times, and left to die in hor­ri­ble con­di­tions or used as hu­man shields. There are still an es­ti­mated nearly 3,000 cur­rent refugee sys­tem man­aged by the UN. To ful­fil our gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment, refugees must be re­ferred to Canada by UNHCR. But in Iraq, sur­vivors of ISIS slav­ery are pushed to the fringes of the makeshift so­ci­ety in refugee camps.

As a for­mer refugee, I know the great work UNHCR is ca­pa­ble of, but it is far from per­fect. In a re­gion plagued by deep­rooted sec­tar­ian dis­trust and vi­o­lence, this re­al­ity is mag­ni­fied in this en­vi­ron­ment. Many fear for their safety and strug­gle to sur­vive in places be­yond the UN’s of­fi­cial camps.

Ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances in Iraq and Syria call for the best and bright­est at Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Canada and Global Af­fairs to be em­pow­ered to bring for­ward cre­ative so­lu­tions and for po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to over­come the pro­ce­dural hur­dles wher­ever they may be. Canada can pro­vide th­ese girls and women hope for a new life.

As head­lines of the fight against ISIS sub­side, Canada can­not for­get those at risk of be­ing left be­hind. Our or­ga­ni­za­tion and oth­ers like the Mozuud Free­dom Foun­da­tion, along­side Yazidi di­as­pora com­mu­nity lead­ers, are step­ping up to help this com­mu­nity re­build.

It will take more than a roof over their head, English classes, and guid­ance on find­ing work. It will be help­ing the women with coun­selling so the emo­tional scars can heal while the phys­i­cal scars will sym­bol­ize their courage to per­se­vere. By do­ing so the Yazidi cul­ture and faith can be re­newed for an­other gen­er­a­tion.

If the feds can do their part, I have no doubt Cana­di­ans will step up to help them re­build. As we have seen with the Viet­namese boat peo­ple, Jewish refugees from the holo­caust, and Ar­me­nian mi­grants in decades past, by giv­ing them a hand up from their dark­est low, the Yazidi will be able to strengthen their com­mu­nity’s ca­pac­ity here in Canada and around the world.

Let’s re­new Canada’s proud hu­man­i­tar­ian tra­di­tion and en­sure this geno­cide’s vic­tims will never be for­got­ten.

Never again.

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