Who will stand up for the Yazidis?

Defend International provides aid to Yazidi refugees in Kurdistan region, Iraq FLICKR PHOTO
Defend International provides aid to Yazidi refugees in Kurdistan region, Iraq FLICKR PHOTO

The Yazidis are an ancient people whose origins in Mesopotamia, where Abraham also originated, and belief in one God provide some parallels to Judaism.

And, similar to the Jews, the Yazidis have been persecuted for centuries.

According to reports, there were some 23 million Yazidis in the world 750 years ago. Today, there are just two million. The plain fact that their natural growth has been curtailed suggests that the Yazidis’ peaceful approach to life has been problematic for their ultimate survival.


Today, the one million Yazidis living in the Middle East – mostly in Iraq – are under constant attack. Their men are killed off, their boys kidnapped and forced to become jihadists, their women and girls raped and enslaved. Recently, I attended a gathering to hear from the humble yet well-spoken leader of the tiny Canadian Yazidi community who shared some horrific stories of his people’s experience in Iraq at the hands of ISIS and other radical Islamists who regard the Yazidis as the worst form of infidels (along with the Jews, of course).

But there is one major difference between the Yazidi and Jewish People. We Jews have a state, and we are allowed to defend ourselves. By contrast, the Yazidis do not have a state and their religion does not allow them to kill anyone, regardless of the threat, unless the person is literally on their doorstep. And by that time, it is usually too late.

The Yazidis are the best kind of neighbours, the best kind of immigrants and the most severely challenged group of refugees in the Middle East. They are being enslaved, tortured and killed daily. If the situation is not corrected quickly, their numbers in the Middle East will ultimately decline to nothing, and the experience of those who are enslaved and killed will not be pretty.

Needless to say, the world should be taking action.

This is the sort of cause one might expect the United Nations to take up. But what is the UN doing? Nothing. It is too busy passing resolutions that attack Israel. If the UN won’t engage, what about the great liberator south of our border, the United States? Again, nothing. How about our own federal government, with its supposedly enlightened refugee initiative cleverly introduced during the last election campaign along with the suggestion that the Trudeau Liberals would present a gentler, kinder Canada, a government which would do the right thing, as compared to the evil Conservatives?

It appears that principle has been thrown out the window, while, by comparison, the previous Conservative government had focused its immigration plan, at least verbally, on the refugees who were most at risk, including the Yazidis and persecuted Christians, though, practically speaking, little was done.

Canadians have happily supported the immigration into Canada of 27,190 refugees as of the end of May. More than 15,000 of those are government sponsored, around 10,000 more have been privately sponsored, and the rest reflect some form of blended approach. And yet, how many Yazidis have made it into Canada? As reported by Raheel Raza, the leader of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, the total number is nine. Not 90, or 900. Nine.


I find that an abomination. It is hypocrisy in its worst form. Did the Liberal refugee policy come out of a genuine desire to do the right thing? If so, the extent to which refugees are in danger should be a major component of the strategy. If that is not the case, perhaps the refugee initiative was nothing more than one of many which were simply designed to paint the Liberals as the good guys, the Decent Ones, in order to help the election momentum. Canadians deserve more for our $2 billion investment in this refugee project. And the Yazidis deserve our support, both in political circles, and in funding for privately sponsored refugees.

The Jewish community has been equally derelict. As is our habit, we rushed into the refugee project, as individuals and through our synagogues, working to sponsor refugees without either a focus on who we were sponsoring or whether we were in fact doing the best we could for those most in need. Tens of refugees are being sponsored by synagogues. But how many of them are Yazidis?

If we Canadians are truly going to do the right thing, then let’s do it. We require the leadership of the federal government and our own community organizations to change the current approaches and policies to focus on those most at risk.