Help wanted: Iraqi Yazidis turn to Russia as West fails to stop Islamic State killings

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Yazidis are asking for the Russian military to liberate more than 3,500 Yazidis held captive by the Islamic State, including children in jihadi training camps. They say the young hostages are subjected to “mental conditioning” and being trained as Islamists. …
By Douglas Burton — Special to The Washington Times – – Wednesday, November 11, 2015

For more than a year, Iraq’s Yazidis have watched a human tragedy unfold as members of their quiet, religious community have been enslaved, tortured and killed by Islamic State militants.

The community and its Iraqi and Kurdish defenders have repeatedly pressed for more U.S. intervention, with limited success. A delegation was in Washington last month to make the case.

“Since ISIS attacked Mosul last year, the genocide hasn’t stopped for one moment,” said Iraqi parliamentarian Haji K. Samo, who was part of the delegation that came to Washington to meet with the State Department a few weeks ago.

He and his colleague Khadeeda K. Eedo, a member of the Nineveh Provincial Council, represent the Yazidis, whose monotheistic religion combines elements of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism.

But frustration at the slow pace of Western intervention has forced some elements of the Yazidi community to look elsewhere for help — Russia.

Saad Barkash, the translator for the delegation that met with State Department officials, said Mr. Eedo confirmed that the Yazidi pope, known as the “Baba Sheikh,” has been in Moscow since Monday seeking Russian help to protect the community from further violence and persecution by the Islamic State.

The Baba Sheikh and his delegation went to Moscow to ask for assistance to the Kurdish Regional Government and the peshmerga, the Kurdish military force, which seeks to extend its sovereignty over the Sinjar region where the Yazidis are based. Among the officials they met with was Mikhail Bogdanov, deputy foreign minister of Russia.

The Yazidi delegation to Russia made several other requests, including humanitarian aid for more than 400,000 Yazidis living under difficult conditions; support from the Russian military to liberate more than 3,500 Yazidis held captive by the Islamic State, including children in jihadi training camps; and Russian support to refer a case of genocide from the U.N. Security Council to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Late Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov vowed that Russia would play a larger role protecting Christians in the Middle East, according to the official Russian news agency Tass.

“The Middle East is a cradle of Christianity,” Mr. Lavrov was quoted as saying. “Christians have been living there for 2,000 years. It should be done so that the civilizational tissue of that region would be preserved and would not be breached.”

Nearly 100,000 ethnic Yazidis also are living in Russia.

Mr. Eedo objects to the Yazidi mission to Russia, fearing it will undermine the effort of his delegation to gain the help of U.S. officials.

“The U.S. will not work together with the Russians,” said Mr. Barkash, speaking on behalf of the delegation representing the Yazidi Movement for Progress and Reform. “If the Russians get involved with helping the Yazidi hostage problem, the U.S. officials will pull back.”

Crisis and flight

The crisis began in August 2014, when hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fled their ancestral homeland near the Syrian border and sought protection in the Kurdish provinces north of Mosul. Approximately 10,000 Yazidis were trapped on Mount Sinjar and remained there for four months until Kurdish militia could clear an escape corridor in December.

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