Yazidi Community In America Watches Events In Iraq With Horror

Yazidi Community In America Watches Events In Iraq With Horror

6:24pm Aug 17, 2014

For the past week, American warplanes and drones have been attacking militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq. The U.S. is working to prevent the genocide of an ethnic and religious minority known as the Yazidis.

A sizable group of Iraqi Yazidis lives in Lincoln, Neb. Sulaiman Murad is among them; he grew up in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, which has been at the heart of recent Islamic State violence. Murad translated for the U.S. military after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and he moved to Lincoln in 2010.

Murad tells guest host Tess Vigeland on All Things Considered that the community of Yazidis in America has worked together to support each other as they watched their friends and family become trapped on Mount Sinjar, and threatened with genocide.

"I cannot imagine how this is happening in 2014," Murad says, as he describes how his family has been persecuted, and the situation they face now that some of have escaped.


Interview Highlights

On what happened to his family members back home in northern Iraq

I talked this morning with my dad and my mom and some of my brothers. So actually I don't know how they make it. ... They were escaping from home to home, from roof to roof, hiding from the ISIS, and they were looking for them in each home in the village. But finally they could escape from the terrorists. But I still don't have communication with some of my family, so I do not know what is going on.

But what I know, they captured one of my cousins and his dad, and just, they cut the head of my cousin in brutal way, and the videos were posted [online by ISIS]. And they took two of my cousins hostage.

On whether he knows anyone who is still stuck in the Mount Sinjar region

We still have some elderly [friends and family], and some of them, they cannot walk, they are left in the town. But the majority of them, they can make it out — right now they are in Kurdistan. But you know, they are homeless, and they still don't have food, water and good conditions. So right now they need help.

On how Yazidis from Lincoln, Neb., traveled to D.C. to protest

We as the Yazidi community in Lincoln, we traveled to Washington, D.C., and were screaming in front of [the] White House, saying, "Obama, Obama, we need help right now." ... In the same day Mr. Obama decided to help the Yazidis ... everyone screamed, and said, "God bless America." And each one of us just hugged the others, and we were laughing, crying. It's very hard to describe that moment.

On how the community came together for emotional support

During this crisis right now, I've never been in my apartment, because when I go to my apartment and when I am thinking what's happened to our community, just — I cannot breathe. Because of that, each six, seven families just, we are living [together] in one of the home[s], and we barely sleep one hour a day or eat a bite of food. Everybody calms the other, and we talk about everything.

On the situation faced by refugees who have made it to Kurdistan

We cannot go back to the Sinjar. ... It's not safe anymore, and we cannot trust anyone anymore, because the peshmerga, the Kurdistan government, they promised us they [were] going to protect us — but when the ISIS came, they didn't shoot one bullet. So thousands of the Yazidi they left behind with the ISIS, and they killed young boys, they slaughtered kids, they raped the women. So we cannot trust anybody anymore.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Tess Vigeland. American warplanes and drones have been attacking militants from the so-called, Islamic State or ISIS for the past week. Part of the U.S. mission is to prevent the genocide of an ethnic and religious minority known as the Yazidis. A sizable group of Iraqi Yazidis lives in the U.S. city of Lincoln, Nebraska. Earlier this week, I spoke with a member of that community, a man named Sulaiman Murad. He grew up in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, and he translated for the U.S. military after the 2003 invasion. He moved to Lincoln in 2010. When we spoke, I asked whether he'd been able to communicate with family members who are still in Iraq.

SULAIMAN MURAD: Just I talk this morning with my dad and my mom and some of my brothers. So, I actually - I don't know how they make it. You know, it was, like, very tragic. They were, like, escaping from home to home, from roof to roof, hiding from the ISIS. And they were, like, looking for them in each home in the village. But finally, they could escape from the terrorists. But I still don't have the communication with some of my family. So, I do not know what is going on. But what I know, just they capture one of my cousins and his dad and just they cut the head of my cousin in brutal way. And the videos were posted in the ISIS web. And they took two of my cousins as hostage.

VIGELAND: I'm so sorry to hear all that. My condolences on such a horrific loss. You mentioned that you have confirmation that some of your family was able to escape Sinjar. Do you know where they're located now? Have they left the area completely? Do you still have friends and family there?

MURAD: Yeah. Just we still have some elderlys since some of them they cannot walk. They are left in the town. But, you know, majority of them they can make it and right now they are in the Kurdistan. But, you know, they are homeless, and they are still don't have, like, food, water and good conditions. So right now, they need help. So, I actually - I cannot imagine how this is happening in 2014, and we are in this time and in this century.

VIGELAND: Mr. Murad, I know you and members of Lincoln's Yazidi community traveled to Washington to protest and ask the U.S. to act. And so when airstrikes did finally begin last week, what was your reaction?

MURAD: We, as the Yazidi community in the Lincoln, we traveled to the Washington, D.C. And we were screaming in front of White House saying, Obama, Obama, we need help right now. But, you know, in the same day, Mr. Obama decided to help the Yazidis. And actually everybody screamed and said God bless America. And each one of us just hug the others, and we were, like, laughing and crying. So, it's a very hard to describe that moment.

VIGELAND: How have people in your community, there in Lincoln, Nebraska, supported each other during this crisis?

MURAD: During this crisis right now, just I have never been in my apartment because when I go to my apartment and when I'm thinking what's happen to our community, just I cannot breathe because if that each six, seven families, just we - we living in one of the home. And just we barely sleep one hour a day or eat a bite of the food. Everybody calm the other, and just we talking about everything and trying to cover what was happening.

VIGELAND: Do you have any sense of what the situation is for your family that has now made it to Kurdistan and what their options are at this point?

MURAD: You know, the option we cannot go back to the Sinjar. So, the United States, United Nations and everybody should react fastly to get all of Yazidi people outside of the Iraq. So, it's not safe anymore and we cannot trust anybody anymore because they, peshmerga, the Kurdistan government, they promise us they're going to protect us. But when the ISIS, they came - they even, they didn't shoot on bullets. And so a thousands of the Yazidi family they left behind with the ISIS. And actually they killed young boy's, they slaughter kids, they raped the women. So we cannot trust anybody anymore.

VIGELAND: That is Sulaiman Murad. He's a member of Yazidi community in Lincoln, Nebraska. And he is a former translator for the U.S. military in Iraq. Mr. Murad thank you so much for taking the time and best wishes to you and your family.

MURAD: Thank you so much. And thank you for America and God bless America. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Support your
public radio station