Visitor to New London tells of Islamic State atrocities in Iraq
New London - Pari Ibrahim tells the story of one Yezidi child in northern Iraq whose uncle urged him to hide under a mattress as Islamic State group forces descended on their home, managing to survive even as the rest of his family was wiped out or kidnapped.
"I cannot sleep because of these children," Ibrahim said in an interview Sunday at The Day. "If you are human, you will be hurt by these stories. I will give up everything in my life just to see these children happy again."
Ibrahim, who will be telling her story at 6:30 p.m. today at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, is on a two-week tour of America to raise money for her newly formed Free Yezidi Foundation. The Netherlands resident, whose family fled from their native Duhok in the Kurdistan region of Iraq when Ibrahim was just 3 years old, hopes to raise about $200,000 to pay for the establishment of an orphanage and post-trauma center for Yezidis who have been targeted by IS terrorists.
Ibrahim, a law student finishing up her degree at the University of Amsterdam, said the Yezidis were facing genocide at the hands of IS fighters, and only President Obama's decision to launch airstrikes against the terrorists has kept them at bay.
"Many ISIS fighters have been killed ... that absolutely stopped the genocide," she said.
But it hasn't stopped IS, which controls about a third of Iraq and about the same portion of Syria, according to estimates provided by a Kurdish official Sunday in The Independent, a British-based newspaper. Fuad Hussein, chief of staff for the Kurdish president, also estimated that the terrorist organization has at least 200,000 fighters - much higher than official Western figures of about 30,000.
But Ibrahim said IS can't amass troops for major offenses in the teeth of shattering U.S. airstrikes. In fact, it already has pulled back from some areas of Iraq and has lost key oil fields as well.
"If airstrikes continue, they can't win," she said.
In fact, the IS incursion into northern Iraq and their mistreatment of Yezidis may have galvanized opposition and ultimately could lead to their downfall, Ibrahim said. She cited a speech by Vian Dakhil, the lone Yezidi in the Iraqi parliament, as riveting the world against the horrors that were befalling her people.
"We want humanitarian solidarity! Save us, save us!" Dakhil implored in a shockingly emotional speech that Obama referred to when he decided to order airstrikes.
Still, the losses that Yezidis have suffered since IS invaded their cities and towns in August are staggering. Ibrahim, a contributing writer for the online news service EzidiPress, said hundreds have been killed, and thousands of captured women and girls have been sold as sex slaves - including several from her own family.
Many homes have been burned, she said, and in some cases Arab neighbors have turned in Yezidis who are not otherwise recognizable from their fellow Iraqis, since they are identified by their religious faith rather than ethnic characteristics.
"There were betrayals on many sides," Ibrahim said.
What's more, she said, tens of thousands of Yezidi refugees are without adequate housing, living under bridges and in tents not meant to keep out the cold that is descending as winter arrives.
Ibrahim said her tour of the United States, which began with a speech at Connecticut College, will include talks at Harvard and Tufts universities in the Boston area, as well as visits to potential donors and nongovernmental organizations in New York City. She also will seek assistance in Europe, where tens of thousands of native Yezidis have relocated.
"There are a lot of orphans in the area of Duhok," she said, and her organization already has identified about 130. "I am trying to raise awareness about the situation there and the attempted genocide ... to make sure these things don't happen again."
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