Canada can pro­vide Yazidi girls and women with hope for a new life

Ottawa Sun - - COMMENT - MAJED EL SHAFIE lgo­ld­stein@postmedia.com @sun­lor­rie Rev. Majed El Shafie is the Pres­i­dent and Founder of One Free World In­ter­na­tional (OFWI.org). @Ma­jedElShadie

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 UK, 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 3rd 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 women un­ac­counted for.

In re­sponse to the House of Com­mons sup­port­ing MP Michelle Rem­pel’s mo­tion call­ing for the re­set­tle­ment of Yazidi vic­tims, I com­mend Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen for lead­ing an im­proved re­sponse from the Trudeau govern­ment in com­mit­ting to re­set­tle 1200 “vul­ner­a­ble Yazidi women and chil­dren and other sur­vivors of Daesh.”

One Free World In­ter­na­tional learned in a let­ter from the Min­is­ter last month that 452 such refugees have ar­rived so far. De­tails have been hard to come by, with more ques­tions than an­swers as to what the govern­ment has planned. What sup­port can Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­ni­ties pro­vide to as­sist them?

The women en­slaved by ISIS are the most vul­ner­a­ble and are of­ten over­looked un­der the 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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