YEREVAN—US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern met with leaders of the Armenian Yazidi community at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday to discuss the plight of Iraq’s Yazidi community, who have been subjected to brutal persecution by Islamic State militants.
Ambassador Heffern discussed the U.S. government’s involvement in the crisis and underlined the United States government’s ongoing efforts to alleviate the Yazidis’ humanitarian plight in Iraq and its commitment to their wellbeing.
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Yazidi Union of Armenia, Aziz Tamoyan, said Yazidis in Iraq are facing a genocide and voiced deep dismay at the lack of interest shown by world leaders toward the plight of his co-ethnics and the possibility of their extermination.
The United Nations refugee agency said today that it is launching one of its largest humanitarian aid pushes in response to the deteriorating situation in Iraq, aiming to help close to a half million people who had been forced to flee their homes.
Barring last minute delays, an air, road and sea operation will begin Thursday with a four-day airlift from Aqaba in Jordan to Erbil in Iraq. This will be followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days.
“The major focus is on improving living conditions for the displaced in the region, particularly people without shelter or housing,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “Conditions remain desperate for those without access to suitable shelter, people struggling to find food and water to feed their families, and those without access to primary medical care.
“Many are still coming to grips with the tragedy they’ve been through in recent weeks – fleeing homes with nothing, and many trying to cope with the loss of loved ones. Emergency support is an urgent need that we are trying to meet,” he told reporters in Geneva.
Last week, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian added his voice to concerns about the plight of Iraq’s Yazidi community and told the Armenian government to provide them with more humanitarian aid than was initially planned.
Responding to appeals from leaders of Armenia’s sizable Yazidi community, the Armenian government announced two weeks ago that it will send $50,000 worth of food to the displaced Iraqi Yazidis. It is expected to be delivered through a United Nations relief agency.
Sarkisian’s spokesman said the president considers the mass killings and deportations of the Yazidis “absolutely unacceptable” and believes that the international community must take “immediate steps to stop them as soon as possible.” He said Sarkisian has also instructed Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions abroad to “redouble their efforts to adequately raise the issue in the international arena.”
Meanwhile, the government in Stepanakert announced on Tuesday that Artsakh is ready to welcome Yazidis fleeing persecution in Iraq.
Davit Babayan, the spokesman for Artsakh President Bako Sahakian, referred to the Yazidis as “brotherly” people facing genocide at the hands of radical Sunni insurgents, RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) reported.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is therefore willing to take in Yazidi refugees, he said. “Artsakh has many socioeconomic problems,” he said. “But if there are such applications we, as a state committed to democratic and humanitarian norms, will try to help those people as much as we can.”