Posted on July 13, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Yazidis
Kurdish Yazidi refugees arrive in Canada. Photo: Screenshot/CTV
MANITOBA, Canada,— A tearful and happy gathering at the Winnipeg airport Monday night, as the first wave of privately sponsored Iraqi Kurdish Yazidi refugees arrived in Manitoba on a flight from Turkey.
The refugees arrived in Winnipeg thanks to Operation Ezra, a venture to bring in danger Yazidi families caught in the violence in Iraq to Winnipeg.
Operation Ezra is the work of several faith-based organizations in Manitoba, including the Winnipeg Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Multifaith Council.
Dozens gathered to welcome the family of eight, which includes a mother, father and six children, whose flight was delayed following attacks at an Istanbul airport June 29.
The family was just 30 minutes away from the airport when the bombs went off.
“It was one of the most joyful moments of my life, for me coming down the escalator and seeing that big of a crowd. It was amazing,” said father Khudher Naso through the voice of a translator.
Operation Ezra spokesperson Nafiya Naso, who is also Yazidi, said the family and everyone in Winnipeg who helped bring the refuges to Manitoba are thankful the family never made it to the airport that day.
“They got a call from Canadian officials in Turkey and they told them to turn around and told them to go back to the camp,” said Naso.
41 people were killed and more than 230 were injured after armed suicide bombers blew themselves up at one of the entrances to the main terminal.
Islamic State group (IS) has extended its control on most parts of Sinjar (Shingal) district in northwest Iraq on August 3, 2014 which led thousands of Kurdish families to flee to Mount Sinjar, where they were trapped in it and suffered from significant lack of water and food, killing and abduction of thousands of Yazidis as well as rape and captivity of thousands of women.
Those who stay behind are subjected to brutal, genocidal acts: thousands killed, hundreds buried alive, and countless acts of rape, kidnapping and enslavement are perpetuated against Yazidi women. To add insult to injury, IS fighters ransack and destroy ancient Yazidi holy sites.
Some 50,000 Yazidis scrambled up Mount Sinjar to escape the IS onslaught. About 5,000 men and boys in Sinjar and nearby villages were massacred.
According to Human Rights organizations, thousands of Yazidi Kurdish women and girls have been forced to marry or been sold into sexual slavery by the IS jihadists. According to UN thousands of Yazidi girls still in Islamic State captivity.
At this time, the family was forced to flee to a mountain and survive without food for eight days. Eventually, the family escaped and made its way to a refugee camp in Turkey.
“It was very fearful two years for me. My kids were not enrolled in any schools. My kids did not get enough to eat,” mother Munifa Naso.
Nafiya Naso said Yazidis have been persecuted for their religious and cultural beliefs for centuries. She said 700 years ago, the Yazidi population was 23 million, but now there are only 700,000 Yazidi people left.
The Naso family is happy to be in Winnipeg, will stay with relatives before moving into a permanent home.
“I can just tell by looking into people’s eyes, that there is freedom, that people come and go without fear inside of them,” said mother Munifa.
“I never thought in a million years I would come here,” said 21-year old Saaod Naso who is looking forward to learning English and studying engineering.
The baby of the family, 7-year old Roz, said she can’t wait to go to school.
“It’s a beautiful place here in Canada,” she said.
A total of 42 Yazidi refugees are en route to Winnipeg. About 500 people from the minority ethnic group live in Canada.
A timeline when the next families will arrive has not been finalized, but Naso said organizers are working closely with officials and she is hopeful the other families will arrive soon.