THE BLOG

Yazidi Villages Have Been Liberated, But The Community Still Needs International Support

04/06/2017 22:36 BST | Updated 04/06/2017 22:36 BST

Heartbreaking scenes emerged on Thursday 1st June, 2017 as Nadia Murad returned to her home in Kocho. The last time she was there was 3 years ago, when she witnessed her mother and brothers' brutal execution before being abducted and sold into slavery as part of Daesh's horrific terror campaign in which the Yazidi community and other religious minorities were targets. After enduring months of torture she managed to escape and has since been appointed UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and has campaigned all over the world for her people, victims of terror, refugees and women's rights. With cameras following her she moved from wreckage to wreckage throughout her village, trying to find remains of her family's belongings. Her grief-stricken wails are the saddest, most desperate sounds one will ever hear. "What is left is just the bones of our brothers, fathers and mothers."

She tearfully pleaded for international help to free all Yazidi women still captive "All we want," Murad said "is people to save 3,000 women in the Daesh prisons and to document our graves." An estimated 3,500 women and girls are still missing including Murad's niece.

Kocho is a small village south of Sinjar, northern Iraq and one of the last Yazidi villages to have been liberated from Daesh. It is also where one of the worst massacres of our time took place in August 2014. Those who weren't killed or captured fled to surrounding areas. "The international community has not delivered on its responsibility," Murad said. "I tell anyone that you are being unjust for not supporting a minority like the Yazidis."

There is a huge amount of work that still needs to be done to find and free the remaining Yazidi women, bring Daesh fighters to justice and offer safety to those whose homes have been wrecked and who are too scarred from the memories to return. British Yazidi campaigner, Rozin Hanjool spoke to a friend recently who escaped Sinjar and is now living in her old village, "so many people are scared to go back. They don't want to go back because of the memories. People may think that now the villages are liberated that everything has gone back to normal but it hasn't really. Things haven't changed. The level of safety there is not good at all."

At Women of the World festival in March 2017 we were lucky enough to hear from Eivor Lægreid, a therapist at Yazda's Women's Centre in Dohuk, northern Iraq who works with Yazidi women and children who have survived enslavement. "There's confusion about what the women want," Lægreid said "I can strongly confirm they are desperate for asylum for themselves & their families."

When parliament re-assembles later this month, it is important that we keep pressure on our government to provide its promised support to this vulnerable community. It is not enough to send funds and seek to end a complex conflict in Iraq and Syria. There is simply not enough qualified help and resource in the region to deal with the needs of those who have survived sexual torture and significant trauma. Yazidis have been victims of extremists for centuries and don't feel safe.

Our country must offer the same substantial support that countries like Germany and Canada have in bringing the most vulnerable women and girls and their families to the UK on special visas for medical treatment, psychotherapy and safe housing.