Yazidis and Christians: Scapegoats of Regional Politics in Iraq

A smashed statue of Jesus sits on the altar of a church burned and destroyed by ISIL during their occupation of the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh on December 27, 2016. (Photo © Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

“They hurt Yazidis.”  “They hurt Christians.”  Both comments were made to me about the Kurds during my time in Iraq by differing political and interest parties.

Yet, it wasn’t from any Christian or Yazidi in the region that I heard such comments.  A recent article  titled “Kurds’ move to keep Yazidi, Christian refugees from their homes is hurting anti-ISIS alliance,” reported this to an American public that is hungry to know what’s going on in Iraq with the persecuted minorities.

So I decided to go there and visit them for myself.  What I found was a stark contrast to the politically-tied voices that shout otherwise.  And like most situations, the truth was found somewhere in the middle.

Historically, Yazidis have been a rural group – not well educated or organized in any capable capacity.  They peacefully practiced their religion in their villages and raised families as most rural minority groups do.  Then came the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). They were killed, kidnapped as sex slaves and scattered.

The world suddenly realized that the Yazidis existed and strove to help them.  Germany offered millions of dollars to any organization that could rescue and bring Yazidis to Germany for restoration.  Since Yazidis don’t know how to read German or any other languages (as most of us only speak the language of our heritage), they were forced to accept as interpreters help from whichever group reached them quickest.

In one situation, a man tied to the Iranian regime (who has since been arrested) did not tell the Yazidis there was money for them from the German government. He also did not mention that they would not be allowed to return home easily. So many Yazidis they remain stuck in Germany with no money wanting to go home after he pocketed their aid money.

This is one of about 3,000 stories Clarion uncovered during its excursion to the shattered ruins of Northern Iraq.  Since “Christians and Yazidis” are recognized as “needing help,” they are the names that are used to press a political agenda in the region.

One such agenda is the “anti-Kurdish state” agenda. I was shocked at the amount of U.S.-run NGOs operating safely in Kurdish region that opposed the Kurds with no real knowledge of their historical ties to the area and the regional conflicts involving Kurds.

In coming weeks, Clarion Project will be explaining the fluid and difficult situation in Iraq and what we, as Americans, can do to help the persecuted.  For now, here are a few facts regarding the regional situation in Northern Iraq:

  1. There is only one safe place for anyone to be in Iraq. That is the Kurdish Region.  Even those that oppose a Kurdish state are safely there and free to operate within Kurdish regional borders.  Not one American has died within the Kurdish region of Iraq.
    All UN and NGO humanitarian organizations are located safely in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, including all Americans that publish anti-Kurdish agenda stories without comprehending the full situation. All organizations helping the victims are there because Kurdish region exists and they are free to operate and travel throughout the Kurdish Region of Iraq.
  2. Iraqis don’t feel safe in Baghdad or Iraq main territory, so they have found haven in the Kurdish region.
  3. There are dozens of refugee camps within the Kurdish region borders (due to safety reasons). These camps are run by the UN or the individual NGOs.  All money for these camps goes to the UN or to Baghdad, who has historically withheld financing from the Kurdish Regional Government despite large numbers of Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees migrating to the Kurdish region in the north.
  4. The Kurdish Regional Government is the only hope of keeping these refugee areas safe, but they have no external funding from the global community or Iraq.

Rather than using the victims as scapegoats for a political agenda, we should remember that there is no hope for any civilized region if we cannot work together to help the people.  Before we make claims of what we think is needed, let us ask the persecuted what they desire.  We may be very surprised by their answers.  I know I was.

 

Jennifer Breedon is Clarion Project’s legal analyst.