Yazidis hail Cana­dian prom­ise to offer haven

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LEE BERTHIAUME

Canada’s prom­ise to re­set­tle hun­dreds of Yazidis by the end of the year is be­ing wel­comed in Iraq, where Yazidi women and girls have en­dured hor­rific abuse and per­se­cu­tion at the hands of ISIL.

Among those who have greeted the news with open arms is Saud Khalid, who was kid­napped by ISIL in Au­gust 2014 and sold as a sex slave three times be­fore es­cap­ing af­ter a year in cap­tiv­ity.

United Na­tions of­fi­cials re­cently in­ter­viewed the 23-year-old about go­ing to Canada and she’s hop­ing she and her young son will be among the 1,200 Yazidis and other ISIL sur­vivors ac­cepted by the Lib­eral govern­ment.

“We wish to go and live in Canada be­cause here our sit­u­a­tion is not good in gen­eral,” she said through a trans­la­tor on Wed­nes­day. “We live in bad con­di­tions and we want to go.

“If they take me to Canada, I will never come back. And my hope is if my rel­a­tives still be­ing held by ISIL, if they es­cape, I want them to also join me in Canada.”

The govern­ment’s plan has also been wel­comed by Dr. Luma Al­han­abadi, who runs Do­huk Girls and Women Treat­ment and Sup­port Cen­tre, which is partly funded by Canada.

Ini­tially op­posed to re­set­tle­ment for fear sur­vivors would face sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers abroad, Al­han­abadi says she now sup­ports the idea and re­cently sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for 15 sur­vivors to go to Canada. Three oth­ers left for Canada this week. Al­han­abadi, whose cen­tre of­fers gyne­co­log­i­cal ser­vices, coun­selling, ther­apy and le­gal ser­vices for about 900 ISIL sur­vivors, said her change of heart on re­set­tle­ment came af­ter 210 sur­vivors went to Ger­many.

The UN de­clared last year that the Yazidis were the vic­tims of geno­cide af­ter ISIL in­vaded their ter­ri­tory in north­ern Iraq in Au­gust 2014. Thou­sands of peo­ple were cap­tured, with the men of­ten killed and women sold into slav­ery.

The Yazidis are a Kur­dish-speak­ing mi­nor­ity who lived mainly in north­ern Iraq be­fore their home ter­ri­tory was in­vaded by ISIL. They prac­tice an an­cient re­li­gion and their be­liefs are re­garded as hereti­cal by ISIL.

Yazidi sur­vivors are con­sid­ered among the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in Iraq, which is why Canada and other coun­tries are of­fer­ing to take them in.

Many women have lost their hus­bands or fam­i­lies and are try­ing to pro­vide for chil­dren while liv­ing in camps with lim­ited elec­tric­ity and other ser­vices.

Gertrude Mu­biru, head of the UN Pop­u­la­tion Fund of­fice in Do­huk, which sup­ports the treat­ment cen­tre, said she was happy Canada was step­ping up to help those in need.

“Per­son­ally, I am happy they are go­ing to Canada be­cause there is a lot of sup­port and ser­vices avail­able,” she said. “They will get a chance to live.”

Khalid was one of three Yazidi women who sat down with The Cana­dian Press to talk about the hor­rors they ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter be­ing cap­tured and forced to live un­der ISIL.

Each story was sim­i­lar as the women re­called try­ing to flee when ISIL at­tacked the town of Sin­jar, only to be cap­tured, sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies and forced to con­vert to Is­lam be­fore be­ing sold into slav­ery.

But each story was also tragic in its own way. Suham Haji, 22, was sold to six dif­fer­ent ISIL fight­ers and tried to kill her­self three times be­fore she and her young son could es­cape af­ter a year in cap­tiv­ity.

Haji, whose hus­band is still miss­ing, was in­ter­viewed by the UN to re­set­tle in Aus­tralia.


ISIL sur­vivors Suham Haji, left, Samira Hasan, cen­tre, and Saud Khalid.

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