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Yazidi captives held at gunpoint by ISIS terrorists

Across the globe, the Jewish people are preparing to celebrate Passover, which commemorates our exodus out of Egypt.  According to the Passover Hagaddah, “In each generation, every individual is obliged to feel as though he or she personally came out of Egypt.” As we remember the plight of the Jewish slaves in ancient Egypt, who witnessed a horrific genocide against Jewish baby boys, it is also important to recall the tragic predicament of another Middle Eastern people, the Yezidis, who are still being brutally repressed by ISIS to date.

As we speak, over 3,000 Yezidi women and girls are enslaved by ISIS families despite the fall of the Caliphate.  These women are tortured and raped on a daily basis and yet, the international community and the Iraqi government behaves as if the struggle against ISIS is over.  But in reality, it is far from over.   ISIS still does control some areas and has moved many of its terrorists to safe havens elsewhere, where they continue to engage in the terror business.  Furthermore, ISIS is still implementing terror attacks throughout the globe and the ISIS threat is likely to grow in the wake of Turkey’s attacks upon Afrin, which has resulted in moving some of the Kurdish forces away from the fight against ISIS before the last traces of the murderous terror group were eliminated according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.


This reality adversely affects all of us including the State of Israel.  Therefore, it is of strategic importance for Israel to unite with the Yezidi people during their hour of need.  As an oppressed people who witnessed the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Middle East, it is pivotal for us of all people to stand with the Yezidis at this time in their struggle to try ISIS terrorists as war criminals at the International Criminal Court at the Hague and to assist them in rebuilding their shattered lives.  And Israel should mobilize its strategic allies such as India to also act in order to help the Yezidis.

Recently, Mirza Ismail, the head of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization International, traveled to India as part of his efforts to recruit international support for the Yezidi people.  Historically, Indians have much in common with Israelis and the leaders of both nations tend to view radical Islam in a similar light.   For this reason, Ismail is seeking to reach out to both Hindu and Jewish organizations in order to help his people.

During his visit, Ismail was very much moved by the support he received from India: “The Hindu people and many other indigenous people we met in India were very touched by the stories of two women we had with us, Nihad Alawsi and Hanifa Maao.”   Alawsi was raped numerous times and impregnated by ISIS during her 15 months in captivity.  Hanifa Maao also witnessed many horrific atrocities while fleeing from ISIS and her sister was sexually enslaved by the murderous terror group.  Upon hearing about what happened to his daughter, Maao’s father had a brain stroke and passed away.  According to Ismail, “Many media outlets came and listened to their stories.  During a couple of live TV shows, many people called and showed their sympathy and asked the government of India to take action.”

During this visit, Ismail noted that the Indian government displayed much sympathy for the plight of the Yezidi people: “We met with some government officials including Her Excellency Minister of External Affair Madam Sushma Swaraj and asked for India’s help to save the Yezidis at this crucial time.  During our meeting with Her Excellency Swaraj, she was very compassionate towards our issues.  Hindu organizations Sewa International, ICCS, India Samhati and Art of the Living have helped the Yezidis a lot and so has the Canadian Jews and Friends of Yezidis group.  All of the help and support are greatly appreciated by the Yezidi nation.”

If India and Israel were permanent members of the UN Security Council, it is obvious that both countries would have done much to help the Yezidis for both nations understand the radical Islamist threat and how it impacts the world at large.  However, because Israel and India do not sit on the UN Security Council and are devoting most of their efforts towards struggling against radical Islamist groups closer to home, both countries have offered emotional support to the Yezidis but have not acted as much as they could to help them.

However, the time has come for both countries to take action especially after US Vice President Mike Pence declared, “Just as important as driving ISIS out of existence is making sure that we provide aid and comfort to those who have suffered so much loss and grief and ensure that they can avail themselves of their right to return. As countries and governments throughout the region begin to restore order, I promise you that the United States of America will strive to ensure that they respect the religious freedom of all of their citizens. The right to worship according to the dictates of our conscience is at the very heart of who we are as Americans, as men and women created in the image and likeness of G-d. And protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign-policy priority of the Trump administration. I can assure you that President Trump is committed to help persecuted peoples reclaim their lands, return to their homes, rebuild their lives, and replant the roots in their ancient place of birth.”

Noting that the UN has failed to give proper support to Middle Eastern minority groups, the Vice President of the United States proclaimed that the US will no longer rely upon the UN alone to assist persecuted minorities: “All who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly.  The United States will work hand-in-hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith.  This is the moment, now is the time and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

Thanks largely to Pence taking a stance against the present international order, the UN now has recently been forced to change their rules in order to permit increased support for Yezidi and Christian victims of ISIS due to the fear that they could lose US support.  Prior to that, Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, told Christianity Today that the UN spent money on refugees but not the Christian ones.  Ismail also stressed that the UN and United States under Obama did not spend the money on Yezidi refugees either.  This shows that strong countries can make a difference for the better.

Although both India and Israel are not superpowers like the US is, both countries are rising stars and regional powerhouses.  This position also gives them the opportunity to make changes for the better as well and Israel should take advantage of its position in order to assist the Yezidis.   Israeli organizations like Shurat HaDin, who have phenomenal experience confronting dictatorial regimes and terror organizations in court, should offer the Yezidis assistance in taking ISIS war criminals to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.  The Israeli government should also be sending humanitarian aid to help the Yezidis directly so that innocent Yezidi victims will have something to eat and will get the medical care that they need.  In addition, both Israel and India should be a voice for the Yezidi people at the UN and to help train the Yezidis to defend themselves against ISIS.  A Yezidi delegation should also visit Israel in order to discuss ways in which Israel can help them.

Israelis should remember that in one point in history, they too were a voiceless persecuted minority who survived a genocide.   They too were once the victims of a world who refused to act in order to prevent the worst genocide in human history.  They too were slaves in the land of Egypt.  Therefore, in order to make NEVER AGAIN a reality, the Israeli government should take concrete actions in order to help the Yezidi nation to get back up on its feet and to encourage others to do likewise as well!  As the late Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch declared, “Liberty is not won by complacency.  It is won by courageous action.”

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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."