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Last year our organization, The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow hosted a rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto to protest the massacre of Arab Christians and especially the Yazidis in the Middle East by ISIS. We had sent the event invitation to hundreds of people including Churches and members of Parliament. To their credit, the previous Canadian government did send their representatives to speak and support us. There was a small turnout by Pakistani Christians who have also been persecuted, a sizable Jewish support group and a handful of Muslims. Churches and so-called human rights organizations did not show up.
This tells us a lot about our collective consciousness.
It also begs the question of awareness. I’ve just returned from a US speaking trip and while I was there I asked my audiences what they know about the plight of the Yazidis. I’m sorry to report 99% of the audiences knew nothing. And when I informed them, they were appalled and shocked. Rightly so.
In recent times, the atrocities against minorities in Muslim Majority countries have grown. This is evident mostly in the Middle East where the Yazidis have become a mass target for violence, rape and murder.
That the Yazidis are a peace-loving and private community is evident by the fact that they are an ancient people with their roots in Mesopotamia. They are few in number — perhaps a million in total and they just want to live and let live. But that is not to be.
This is not the first time the Yazidis have been attacked. Yazidis also suffered a genocide, when Turkey slaughtered about 350,000 Yazidis along with the Armenians 1914-18., a fact that the majority of Muslims are in denial about.
Today 500,000 Yazidis have been displaced in Arab lands, and they will likely never return to their ancestral homes in Syria or Iraq. Thousands of Yazidi men have been murdered and thousands of Yazidi women taken as sex slaves.
So where does this place us as caring Canadians with a mandate for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine? Where does this place us as human beings with a heart and consciousness?
In a very sad position I’m sorry to say.
We can also question the government to the South of us who call themselves champions of human rights.
Nina Shea writes in National Review “Over the past five years of Syria’s civil war, the United States has admitted a grand total of 53 Syrian Christian refugees, a lone Yazidi, and fewer than ten Druze, Bahá’ís, and Zoroastrians combined.” If this is not shameful then I don’t know what is. And how many contenders for the White House are talking about this genocide?
We don’t have much say in US politics but we can address this issue in Canada.
Since assuming power in November 2015, the Trudeau government brought in to Canada 27,190 Syrian refugees of whom 15,355 are government-assisted refugees, 2,341 blended visa-office referred refugees and 9,494 privately sponsored refugees.
As compared to this, Senior officials of the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship confirmed on May 12, 2016 in their testimony to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that the number of Yazidi cases which are being processed are “small” totalling only 9 cases.
Among the Syrian Refugees who were brought to Canada are also many who had jobs and were working but in order to fill the election promise of a particular number, they were offered a move to Canada and who would say No?
While humanitarian efforts are laudable, Canadians must know and understand that while Syrian Refugees may be able to go back to Syria when things settle down, the Yazidis have no home to go back to.
Olivia Ward writes in an article that there are at least 15,000 in Turkey who would qualify as refugees. And although the more than 400,000 in Iraq are internally displaced from Sinjar and other locations, Ottawa could follow the example of Germany, which issued visas to 1,000 “most vulnerable” Iraqis, including the Yazidi girls and women who escaped Islamic State captivity.
The plight of minorities in the Middle East is compounded by various factors including societal intolerance. Many Syrian Christians are afraid to live in Muslim-dominated refugee camps run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because they are targeted. Consequently, many of them do not register with the UN agency.
Religious persecution and intolerance are rampant in the Middle East and many Muslim-majority countries
PEW published data in February 2015 that highlighted religious intolerance in Muslim-majority countries. The report, titled “Latest trends in religious restriction and hostilities”, found that “social hostilities involving religion were highest across the Middle East and North Africa”
PEW measured intolerance on its Social Hostilities Index, comparing regions around the globe. According to the report, the Middle East “remained well above the global median.”
This only proves that the situation of minorities and especially Yazidis is at the level of a crisis and needs urgent attention by world powers. What we can do is continue to create awareness by keeping this crisis on the front burner, by lighting a fire under the feet of our elected representatives and by pushing for action by our governments.
To this effect, Rona Ambrose, leader of the Official Opposition and interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the House of Commons to declare that ISIL is responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against ethnic and religious groups, namely, but not limited to, Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims in Syria and Ira