WASHINGTON–Armenian National Committee of America staff and supporters took part in a candlelight vigil in front of the White House on August 3 to mark the 3rd anniversary of the ISIS attack on Shingal (Sinjar, in Arabic), which marked the beginning of the Yezidi Genocide in 2014. Thousands of Yezidis were killed by invading ISIS forces, which faced no opposition from Iraqi government troops. Thousands of women and children were also abducted and used as sex slaves by ISIS. To this day, many are still held captive.
The vigil was organized by the Free Yezidi Foundation and the American Ezidi Center. “The Yezidis have suffered so much for so long. Today we need the international community to stand with us,” remarked Pari Ibrahim, Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation. “We seek justice, security, and a brighter future for our people.” The message resonated strongly with the audience, which also included Kurdish and Iraqi Christian community members.
In 2016, the United States House of Representatives voted unanimously to declare that “the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.” Similar motions passed unanimously in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Parliament.
In Armenia, the 40,000-strong Yezidi community – the nation’s largest minority group – is able to thrive by worshipping freely and providing Kurmanci-language education in local public schools. The world’s largest Yezidi temple is currently under construction in the village of Aknalich, 14 km west of Etchmiadzin, in the Armavir marz. Under Armenia’s new 2015 constitution, Yezidis are guaranteed representation in Armenia’s National Assembly, along with the next three largest minority groups: the Assyrians, Kurds, and Russians.
During the First World War, many Yezidis protected their Armenian neighbours from Ottoman troops. Some were killed for their involvement. On April 21, 2015, a monument was inaugurated in Yerevan to honor those “innocent Yezidi martyrs.”
According to one Reuters report, around 50 Yezidi families fleeing the Shingal region in 2014 have found refuge in Armenia.