ROSE encourages all who read this to organize Yazidi discussion circles across Canada in support of Yazidi women and girls.
What you need to know
The Yazidis are a religious minority who live primarily in Iraq and are descendants from the region's most ancient roots. Their religion, Yazidism, is linked to ancient religions combining aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. For centuries the Yazidi have been falsely called "devil worshippers" and persecuted for their religious beliefs.
On August 3, 2014, the Yazidis suffered a horrendous attack by the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS*) in its crusade to "purify" Iraq and its neighbouring countries of non-Islamist influences. Many of the Yazidi men and boys were slaughtered outright along with “older” women. Young women and children were forced into sex slavery and systematically tortured by the ISIS military. This summer the UN reported that atrocities, including daily rapes and gang rapes, against thousands of Yazidi women and girls continue. Those who managed to escape wait in overcrowded and ill-equipped refugee camps.
Thanks to Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad, the plight of Yazidi women and girls has been brought to the attention of the Canadian government. Furthermore, at the behest of concerned citizens and many of the women MPs on Parliament Hill, on October 25, 2016, the Canadian government voted unanimously to bring Yazidi women and girls to Canada as refugees. Before this time the government had refused to help the Yazidi women on the basis of not taking in refugee groups on religious grounds. The government was asked to reconsider these rules and find a way to support Yazidi women.
Yazidi women are the most openly persecuted women in the world today. Women and girls have been bought and sold for a pack of cigarettes, burned alive for refusing sex to ISIS soldiers or for trying to escape, and are suffering sexual torture that one survivor described as a fate worse than death.
Responding as a feminist organization
The global movement One Billion Rising, established by Eve Ensler, put out a call to "Rise with Yazidi Women" on August 3, 2016, the second anniversary of the initial genocidal attack on the Yazidi. In collaboration with Senator Mobina Jaffer, ROSE held an event to speak out against the crimes against the Yazidi and demand that the federal government find a way to accept Yazidi women and girls as refugees. ROSE became involved because we know that Yazidi women and girls are being persecuted because they are female. Their persecution is an act of violence against women, and religion is an excuse being used by ISIS militants to justify their extreme hatred and violence towards women and girls.
The purpose of the discussion circle campaign
With this campaign, ROSE hopes to encourage people to come together to talk about the steps that need to be taken to help the Yazidi women and girls as they integrate into Canadian society. As feminists, we are addressing their situation because we are concerned about their well being as women and girls who have been subjected to systematic military gender violence. As an outcome of our discussions, we will be urging representatives at all levels of government to take responsibility for following through on the decision to bring Yazidi women and girls to Canada.
To complicate matters, the Canadian government has recently been bringing in refugees who desperately need a new life, while existing aid agencies are being overwhelmed and not provided with additional funding to meet increased demand.
Yazidi women and girls are going to be settled in Canada, most of them in Canadian cities, and we are asking that adequate resources, including trauma care, be provided for their recovery and settlement.
For more information and support:
Islamic State has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations. ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites. The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a "historic scale" in northern Iraq.