Oban cam­paigner backs Yazidi woman’s plea to First Min­is­ter

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­times.co.uk

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.

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