On behalf of Defend International, Dr. Widad Akreyi extended her gratitude to Ms. Rachael Harder, Member of Parliament for Lethbridge, for her efforts to shed light on the plight of the Yazidis and to get the Canadian government to acknowledge the heinous, criminal acts committed by ISIS against the Yazidis and others as genocide. In an official letter sent to Ms. Harder on 25 June 2016, Dr. Akreyi thanked Ms. Harder for her statement in the House of Commons on 9th June, noting the importance of global support for the Yazidis and in particular for the victims of sexual slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.
To our delight, Ms. Harder decided to embark on a fact-finding mission to Kurdistan region, Iraq, where she had the chance to meet some of the Yazidi girls and women, who have escaped from ISIS. Upon her return, Ms. Harder said in a press release that ISIS wants to “eradicate the Yazidi people” and that Canada must do everything it can to “provide a place of refuge and hope to Yazidi women and girls.”
Below is the full press release from Ms. Harder.
For Immediate Release: August 4, 2016
Immediate Action Required to Provide Refuge & Hope
to Yazidi Victims of Genocide
LETHBRIDGE, AB — Rachael Harder, Member of Parliament for Lethbridge, has returned from a fact-finding mission to northern Iraq where she learned first-hand about the genocide of Yazidis taking place at the hands of ISIS militants. Harder and her One Free World International delegation travelled to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq where they interviewed Yazidi women and girls who were abducted by ISIS and have managed to escape.
“The stories we heard were unimaginable—absolutely horrific” said Harder. “One young woman was seventeen when she was captured. The militants raped her repeatedly in front of her mom and sister and then sold her. She was sold a total of fourteen times. With each new owner she was tortured and raped repeatedly before being taken to the market and auctioned to the highest bidder. She was in captivity for thirteen months before miraculously escaping.”
The Yazidis are a religious minority who reside mainly in the northern region of Iraq where they live a peaceful existence that is largely agrarian in nature. They are being targeted because their faith does not align with ISIS ideology.
“This is calculated and systematic cruelty with the intent to eradicate the Yazidi people.” added Harder.
UN Recognized Genocide of Yazidis
This week marks two years since the Yazidi genocide began on Sinjar Mountain. In August 2014, ISIS militants invaded Yazidi communities in the Sinjar Mountain range, killing 5,000 men and forcing 7,000 women and girls into sex slavery. Another 300,000 Yazidi civilians were forced to flee from their homes.
Since the Sinjar massacre, ISIS has systematically invaded Yazidi communities throughout the region of northern Iraq. According to a United Nations report released in June 2016, ISIS militants are seeking to completely exterminate the Yazidi people through mass killings, sex slavery and other horrific crimes.
In June, the United Nations officially declared this brutality as genocide and recommended that we accelerate the asylum claims of Yazidi victims. “It is a shame that Trudeau and the Liberal government have turned a blind eye to this gross atrocity,” said Harder.
What Canada Can Do
In the face of the Yazidi genocide, Canada has a responsibility to act. Since January, Canada has brought in more than 25,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria but very little attention has been given to the Yazidi people. In contrast, Germany has resettled 1,100 Yazidi women and girls.
The problem is that most Yazidis are not classified as UN refugees, but as Internally Displaced People. To claim refugee status, individuals must reside outside of their home country; however, there are ways around this. Section 25 of the Immigration Act allows the Minister of Immigration to make an exception in extreme circumstances, genocide being one of them.
“The only thing that stands as a barrier to these girls starting a new life in Canada is our present government’s unwillingness to act. Thousands of girls are held in captivity and tens of thousands more will face the same fate if we continue to stall.” said Harder.
“I have a responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless. Canada must do everything it can to fight ISIS and provide a place of refuge and hope to Yazidi women and girls.”
Photo of Ms. Rachael Harder: © Ms. Rachael Harder