Artist Hannah Rose Thomas exhibits portraits of Yazidi women at our ‘Voices of Iraq’ film premiere at Westminster Abbey

The Chief of the Yazidi people died this week

Mir Tahsin Beg was 85 years old and had served his people since becoming Chief at the tender age of 11. Before ISIS, few had heard of the Yazidi people. For many, they first appeared on the news, starving and trapped on Mount Sinjar. The world knew ISIS would shortly arrive in trucks, looking to kill and enslave them. There were aid drops and Obama talked of a US rescue mission, but this didn’t come to much. Although international action eventually led to thousands being evacuated, an estimated 5,000 Yazidi men and boys were murdered. Their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters were captured. Most of these women would be sold as sex slaves. Many are still missing. 

In the weeks that followed the massacre, we made our way to Mount Sinjar. Food and water was scarce and there were rumours that ISIS would return. But our truck managed to get through the various roadblocks and we were able to deliver much-needed aid. In Dohuk, a town to the northeast of Sinjar, we visited a camp for Yazidi women who had escaped captivity. They shared awful stories of rape and torture and were haunted by the horrors they had witnessed in the ISIS caliphate. We provided them with food packages, toiletries and makeup. Of all the things we gave them, it was the makeup they were most thankful for. They wanted their self-esteem back.

The hidden suffering of Iraqi Sunnis

Handing out shoes in Khazir IDP camp to Sunnis who escaped Mosul

In the same way we have given support to the Yazidis, we also help Sunni Muslims. When ISIS first came, they told their fellow Sunnis that things would be different. No more unemployment and no more corruption, that was their promise. But months into the caliphate, life was brutal. Men and women were executed for minor infractions. Hundreds disappeared into underground prisons. Many were killed trying to leave Mosul, the “capital” of ISIS in Iraq, or were forced to fight against their fellow Iraqis. When ISIS was eventually defeated on the battlefield, many innocent Sunnis were executed or imprisoned by conquering militias. Those who weren’t killed were spat out into IDP camps having suffered greatly. 

With one of our partners in northern Iraq, the Barzani Charity Foundation, we provide hot food to hundreds of Sunnis at one such camp in Dibaga. The people we feed there are some of the poorest in Iraq and have known little kindness in these harsh years. The video which you see in this update says we are feeding “some released youth from prison”. In Iraq, a prison sentence is no indicator of guilt. Often, it is the sad and inevitable consequence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That being said, if a post-ISIS settlement in Iraq is possible, it must include the Sunnis, as it must also include the Shia and Yazidi people.

An answer to the question above

Most of you will know that our focus is on helping persecuted Iraqi Christians. As for whether or not a Christian charity should help Muslims and Yazidis as well? Our answer to this question is simply ‘yes’. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the most pertinent is The Parable of the Good Samaritan. To show mercy to the injured, including those of a different religion, is as much a part of the Christian faith as forgiveness. The Good Samaritan crossed cultural boundaries and reached out to someone in need. We believe Christ urges us to do likewise. If you agree, please support our work and make a donation.

Supporting our work in the Middle East

To support our work in Iraq and Jordan helping displaced and persecuted Christians and other minority groups, please make a donation now via our donate page (there are numerous options for how to donate). Or you can send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom.