When Geoffrey Clarfield looks at the plight of the Yazidi people, he’s reminded of what Jews faced in Germany in the middle of the last century – powerlessness, genocide and the indifference of much of the world.
“There are certain moral issues that have a family resemblance,” Clarfield believes. Like Jews before the creation of Israel, the Yazidis have no state or army to protect them, and so they have become victims of the hatred and murder at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Nevertheless, there is something Jews and other supporters of the Yazidis can do, he said. The organization of which he is executive director, Mozuud Freedom Foundation, is raising money to sponsor five Yazidi refugee families to Canada.
Mozuud, which Clarfield called “a Zionist humanitarian organization,” recently sponsored a fundraising evening as part of Project Abraham, the effort to sponsor the five Yazidi families. Part of the project includes lobbying the Canadian government to make the immigration of Yazidis a national priority, while also attempting to convince the government to protect Yazidis in their ancient homeland in Iraq and Syria and in refugee camps, where they are being attacked by Muslim refugees.
The fundraising event was held Nov. 9 at a private home in Toronto, where more than 40 people contributed $17,000 to help sponsor the families. Mozuud had already raised $100,000 toward the project, leaving another $40,000 to $50,000 to go, Clarfield said.
At the same time, Mozuud has mobilized dozens of volunteers to navigate the bureaucratic immigration maze and help integrate the families once they arrive, Clarfield said.
An anthropologist by training, Clarfield said people don’t know much about the Yazidis. Some wonder if they are a Muslim group. On the contrary, he said, they are being persecuted because they are not Muslims.
Reports indicate that over the past few years, thousands of Yazidi men have been murdered, their women raped and their daughters sold as sex slaves at the hands of Islamic militants in ISIS.
The Yazidi experience should resonate with Jews, who were also persecuted for being different. Just as an attack on Jews was an attack on the universal value of freedom, so too are the attacks on Yazidis, Clarfield stated.
Clarfield said he and Mirza Ismail, founder and chair of the Yazidi Human Rights Organization-International, have spoken at five Toronto synagogues and will visit a sixth in the near future. Jews should remember that the liner St. Louis, carrying Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, was turned away by Canadian authorities, only to return their passengers to Europe.
They say similarities to the situation in the 1930s are there for all to see. “The Yazidis have no one to protect them. They cannot wait,” Clarfield said.