Today at 10AM a group of about forty Iraqi immigrants belonging to the Yezidi religious minority protested in front of the United Nations building in Manhattan. Among them was my friend Dakheel who I worked with when he was my interpreter in Iraq back in 2009. At the time, I remember hanging around the camp fire at night with Dakheel talking about the future of Iraq. We both agreed that after the United States pulled out of the country that things would get pretty bad. We were already dealing with what was then called ISI, the Islamic State of Iraq, which was a group of hard core terrorists. Dakheel told me at the time that there was no future for Iraq and that he was starting the process to immigrate to America with his wife and children. He got his visa and I’m glad he did.
Neither of us could have predicted just how bad things would get in the coming years. The stories he told me were nothing short of horrifying.
When ISIS surrounded the Yezidi home city of Sinjar, the only place for them to escape to was Sinjar mountain. He told me stories of parents who had four children but could only carry two up the mountain. The other two had to be left to die. When ISIS took the city they wanted the Yezidi to convert to Islam. Even if they did, they would be murdered afterwards, or worse be forced to turn and kill their own people. As the Dakheel told me, the Yezidi were given two options: “Die or die.” Women and children were executed by the dozens. ISIS terrorists covered Dakheel’s sister and her children in gasoline and was about to set them on fire. Another terrorist stopped the act, only because letting them starve to death would be more painful. They then took his sister’s ten year old daughter to be used for sexual slavery.
A few hundred thousand Yezidi climbed Sinjar mountain. Without food or water, the newborns and children were the first to die. Dakheel’s mother and father literally walked off the side of the mountain and all the way to Dohuk in Kurdistan to survive. When I asked how many died in Sinjar and on Sinjar mountain, the Yezidi protestors informed me that it was impossible to know, but that the number was easily in the thousands. Their families said you could smell the rotting bodies everywhere. Even those who escaped the mountain to Kurdistan are now living as homeless refugees; their struggle is far from over.