Oban campaigner backs Yazidi woman’s plea to First Minister
A WOMAN who survived sexual slavery by ISIS has been joined by local campaigners to ask Scotland’s First Minister and Argyll residents to help persecuted Yazidi refugees.
The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking people, native to Iraq and Syria and who practise an ancient religion combining Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, are suffering in an ongoing genocide at the hands of fundamentalist jihadists of ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’, called ISIS or Daesh.
In April, Westminster MPs voted unanimously, 278 to zero, to declare ISIS’ atrocities a genocide.
Campaigners for the global Yazidi NGO, Yazda, are calling on governments to investigate and prosecute Isis’ crimes and establish a safe zone to protect vulnerable minorities.
Their website states the genocide of August 2014 has ‘resulted in the death of 3,000-5,000 civilians, the abduction of 5,000-7,000, mostly woman and children and the displacement of 400,000 people from the Yazidi homelands.’
Last week Yazidi human rights activists Nadia Murad, 22, visited Holyrood with Yazda delegates to ask the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to help resettle survivors of Daesh’s violence and degradation.
Earlier in November, Argyll and Bute SNP MP Brendan O’Hara also implored the UK Government to help ‘one of the most abused and vulnerable groups of people on this earth’, and to not let them simply be ‘subsumed into the greater refugee crisis’.
Mr O’Hara recounted Nadia’s first-hand testimony to the House of Commons, saying: ‘Until August 2014, Nadia lived quietly in the village of Kocho with her mother, her brothers and her sisters. Then Daesh arrived, with the sole intention of completely destroying that small community through murder, rape and kidnap.
‘Nadia told us in her own words that, ‘They used rape as the means of destruction for Yazidi women and girls, ensuring these women will never return to a normal life’.
‘Days after Nadia was taken captive, she had to watch from a school building as six of her brothers were executed. She was given to a Daesh fighter. She was repeatedly tortured and raped by the man, before one night, in desperation, she tried to escape.
‘She was caught and punished. She said, about the man: ‘He beat me up, forced me to undress and put me in a room with six militants. They continued to commit crimes to my body until I became unconscious.’
‘Three months later, remarkably, and showing incredible courage, she attempted another escape. This time she was successful and is now resettled in Germany.’
Tragically, he added, Nadia’s story is far from unique.
‘Rather than hiding away from the world, she has devoted her life to highlighting the plight of the people of her community, pleading with the world not to turn its back on them. Nadia Murad is, without doubt, one of the bravest and most courageous people I have ever met or, indeed, am likely ever to meet.’
Nadia, now a UN Goodwill Ambassador, was joined in the First Minister’s office by Yazda UK board member Fiona Bennett from Ardchattan, who first contacted Mr O’Hara about the Yazidis’ plight, and locally has been raising awareness and funds for the cause.
Ms Bennett said of the humanitarian crisis: ‘There is no torture too brutal. Children are being beheaded in front of their parents. Some 3,400 women are still being held as sex slaves. They are being tortured for attempting suicide. Women are asking to be bombed because they cannot take it.
‘People need to know what these people are escaping, what they are taking their families away from. We owe it to the women who are raped and the children enslaved. I want Argyll to get behind a campaign for Yazidis and other minorities who are being tortured.’
Ms Bennett hopes more campaigners will help pressure the UK and Scottish Governments to shelter Yazidi refugees in safety in Britain.
Argyll and Bute SNP MSP Michael Russell said: ‘[ Nadia’s] campaign, backed by Fiona, is of immense importance and shows huge courage. The world needs to recognise the huge suffering of many refugees, and our duty to help them wherever they come from.’
Above: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon learned about Nadia Murad’s experiences as a survivor of human trafficking and outlined Scotland’s progress in tackling these crimes of exploitation and in supporting the victims. Right: from left, Michael Russell MSP welcomes Nadia Murad and Yazda campaigners Fiona Bennett, Anna Duncan and Ahmed Khudida.