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The forgotten Yazidis of Iraq

Defeating Islamic State is not enough: It is high time America came to the rescue of the Yazidis.

Iraqi Yazidi refugees in Newroz camp receive help from International Rescue Committee after fleeing their homes in 2014. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Iraqi Yazidi refugees in Newroz camp receive help from International Rescue Committee after fleeing their homes in 2014. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Joseph Frager
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.

The Yazidis of Iraq are most oppressed people on earth today. The Jewish people, who carried the same title for thousands of years, should be the first to acknowledge their plight.

The United Nations, relief agencies and liberal groups focus almost exclusively on the Arabs of Gaza, completely ignoring the Yazidis. This makes no sense unless the real goal of these groups is to attack Israel. Otherwise, the Yazidis should be their priority.

The world, too, has so far been largely silent in the face of the Yazidis’ desperation and despair. The world turned a blind eye to the genocide in Rwanda, and more recently, to the plight of the Syrian people. We all, as human beings, cannot allow this to happen again.

The Trump administration’s efforts to defeat Islamic State, which has murdered, raped and enslaved tens of thousands of Yazidis, are laudable. However, defeating ISIS is not enough—unfortunately pockets of ISIS still exist and continue to wreak havoc.

ISIS still holds 3,000 Yazidis as slaves in a U.N. camp. How the United Nations can allow this is beyond belief. Physicians for Human Rights has spoken out on behalf of the Yazidis, 200,000 of whom are presently displaced. And yet the U.S. grants asylum first to persecuted Muslims. This is an injustice.

The Yazidis are one of the first groups on the planet to embrace the Abrahamic tradition of monotheism. They are not Muslims, although many speak Arabic. They are not Kurds, even though they are lumped into the category of ethnic Kurds.

They are not Zoroastrians; they predated Zoroastrianism. They live in the Nineveh Plains, the setting for the biblical story of Jonah. They are a group that has existed for more than 3,000 years and is now facing annihilation.

There are some Jewish groups and individuals trying to save the Yazidis, including Renanah Goldhar of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization. Goldhar has been at the forefront of the fight to save the Yazidi people.

Unfortunately, the Yazidis have been caught in the crossfire between the Kurds who helped America defeat ISIS and ISIS itself. Although the Kurds at times have helped the Yazidis, at other times they have not.

The Kurds have been armed by America, the Yazidis have not. As a result, the Yazidis are sitting ducks for ISIS. The Kurds on occasion have abandoned the Yazidis, allowing ISIS to murder, rape and enslave them.

It is high time we realized that the Yazidis are in dire need of help. America should come to their rescue.

Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.

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